When it comes to alcohol, many people primarily recall alcoholic beverages. But the benefits of this substance are by no means limited to the production of alcohol. Although it, when used in reasonable doses, can play a useful role for our body.
Alcohol and its types
It is the English "Spirit" that lies at the base of the Russian name "alcohol". This substance is an organic product (a derivative of carbohydrates) whose chemical formula contains a hydroxyl group. There are different classifications of alcohols. According to one of them, monatomic, diatomic and polyatomic substances are distinguished. Chemists also group them into unsaturated, saturated and aromatic. Another classification provides for the separation of alcohols into primary and secondary.
Simple alcohol is a liquid without color, but with a characteristic odor and taste, easily soluble in water in any proportions. And the more atoms there are in alcohols, the easier they are to combine with water. But for oily and fat-containing substances, alcohol itself serves as a solvent.
In nature, this substance is usually found in essential oils. The leaves of many plants contain methyl alcohol. After fermentation of organic products, ethyl alcohol is formed. By the way, some vitamins also belong to this category of substances, for example, A, D, B8.
Chemists define alcohol as a substance obtained by the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide under the influence of catalysts. Most often in different spheres of life they use the following alcohols:
But today we will pay more attention to the ethyl substance, which is widely used in the food industry, medicine, and cosmetology.
How ethanol is made
For technical purposes, alcohol obtained from ethylene, which is hydrated using sulfuric acid, is used. In this form, the substance is included in:
- various resins of artificial origin;
- exploding substances;
- aromatic substances.
Alcohol obtained after fermentation of sugary substances is suitable for the food industry. As a rule, in this case, the raw materials are berries, fruits, corn, potatoes, cane sugar, rice, starch. Yeast, enzymes and bacteria are used to “start” the fermentation reaction.
The process of "birth" of alcohols consists of several stages:
- selection and preparation of raw materials;
- the breakdown of starches to the state of simple sugars;
- fermentation (yeast);
- product cleansing.
But despite the fact that theoretically making alcohol looks quite simple, repeating the whole process at home, and even creating alcohol of the right concentration (from 96 to 100 vol.) Is quite problematic.
Ethyl alcohol characterization
Ethyl alcohol, known worldwide for the molecular formula C2H5OH, is a colorless liquid with a boiling point of 78 degrees Celsius. The substance has a pungent odor. It burns with a smokeless blue flame, which in daylight is not always noticeable. The physical characteristics of a substance are determined by the presence of a hydroxyl group and the length of the carbon chain. Ethanol serves as a universal solvent for various substances, such as acetic acid, acetone, benzene, tetrachloride, chloroform, ethylene glycol.
Benefits in the food industry
Alcohol entered human life many millennia ago. Historians believe that the first ethyl alcohol appeared about 8 thousand years ago. It is believed that the substance appeared by chance - as a result of fermentation of fruit drinks. And the "authorship" of the first alcohol product made in the laboratory is attributed to Arab chemists. Modern researchers believe that their colleagues in ancient times managed to create the first drink with a high ethanol content in the VI century. But in Europe, the first ethanol was created by Italians supposedly in the 11th century. In Russia, for the first time they heard about an alcoholic beverage in 1386, when travelers brought aquavit from Genoa. Then began the era of creating alcoholic herbal and berry tinctures, the so-called bread wine (from rye). Pure alcohol of own production among Russians appeared after more than 4 centuries.
What is useful
To adequately assess the role of alcohol in our lives, it is not enough to recall only the food and liquor industry, where ethanol is the main component of alcoholic beverages. The use of this substance is much wider. It is difficult to do without this substance in medicine, the chemical industry, and in the production of perfumes and cosmetics.
- deodorizing substance;
- foam absorber for ventilation;
- base for tinctures;
- food preservative;
- fixing substance for alcoholic beverages;
- warming agent for grinding;
- basis for compresses.
And this is far from all, but only the main areas of application of ethyl fluid.
Therapeutic properties of ethanol
According to doctors, alcohol is both a tonic and poison. The difference is only in the dose of the substance taken. It is believed that moderate consumption of drinks containing ethanol is good for the cardiovascular system, they protect against the formation of gallstones and diabetes. But it is enough to cross the line between “moderate use” and “abuse”, as the likelihood of developing cancer, diseases of the digestive and nervous system, increases several times.
In pharmacology, this substance serves as a universal disinfectant. Almost 62% of antibacterial gels are composed of ethanol. It effectively kills most bacteria and fungi, as well as some viruses.
Ethyl alcohol is used as an antidote for some poisonings. In particular, it is effective in eliminating the effects of an overdose of methanol or ethylene glycol.
A recent study by scientists from Boston University proves that ethanol in small amounts reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Scientists have noticed a similar effect in the case of cancer. But the researchers noted another, not so comforting, side of the alcohol theme: most suicides were done under the influence of alcohol. And against the background of frequent alcohol consumption, many serious diseases develop.
From a biological point of view, the idea that alcohol protects against cardiac diseases makes sense. Moderate alcohol consumption increases the level of high density lipoproteins (the so-called good cholesterol), and they, in turn, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, some chemical processes that are launched in the body under the influence of alcohol improve blood coagulability, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent the formation of small blood clots that can block blood flow to the heart or brain.
Rubbing with alcohol tinctures, which have a warming effect, helps relieve joint pain. External ethanol preparations relieve muscle pain.
The benefits and risks of alcohol at different stages of life:
- pregnant - practically no benefit;
- men up to 30 years old - against the background of alcohol, the risk of accidents increases, which eliminates the possible benefits for the heart with moderate alcohol consumption;
- men up to 60 years of age - moderate consumption of drinks containing ethyl alcohol can provide protection against cardiovascular diseases, the benefit potentially exceeds the harm (provided that the person is not prone to alcoholism);
- women under 60 - calculating the ratio of benefit and risk in this case is more difficult, since approximately the same number of women die every year from breast cancer (the risk increases with alcohol) and cardiovascular diseases (the risk decreases with alcohol). Nevertheless, as the survey showed, women are more afraid of developing breast cancer than cardiological diseases.
Moderate doses of alcohol: to whom and how much
You can often hear that drinking alcohol in moderation does not harm the body. But how to understand what a "moderate dose" is? Nutritionists have calculated the approximate safe rate of alcohol for healthy adults. It is approximately 44 ml of ethyl alcohol, which corresponds to 355 ml of beer and 148 ml of wine.
On the contrary, a dose of 7-8 g of pure alcohol per 1 kg of body weight is a lethal portion of alcohol.
Ethanol as a medicine
Infusion for the treatment of tonsillitis, colds, bronchitis
Take calendula, Kalanchoe and eucalyptus leaves in different proportions (about 100 g each). Pour the crushed plants with alcohol (the liquid should cover the plants). Insist 72 hours in a dark place. Gargling will help get rid of diseases: dilute 1 part of tincture with 10 parts of water. Gargle three times a day.
Cholagogue alcohol infusion
For 14 days, insist on the fruits of barberry (40 g of fresh berries mixed with 40 g of dried). Take the medicine 3 times a day for 20-25 drops per 50 ml of water. The course of treatment is at least 2 weeks.
Half a liter of alcohol pour about 10 horse chestnuts. After 2 weeks of exposure, rub the alcohol tincture with massage movements into the places of varicose vessels. To enhance the effect, the same remedy is taken orally - 30 drops 3 times a day. The effect of treatment will become noticeable in a month.
The dangerous properties of alcohols are primarily encountered by people working with their vapors. Excessive stay in such conditions causes a condition close to drug intoxication. Longer contact with vapors of methanol or isopropanol (after 8-12 hours) can cause lethargic sleep or even death.
Methyl alcohol is an extremely dangerous poison. Taken inside, it causes poisoning, which leads to convulsions, epileptic seizures, tachycardia, blindness. It is enough to take a little more than 30 mg of the substance so that without proper medical care a person dies. And most importantly: methyl alcohol is absorbed extremely quickly into the body - hence the high risk of poisoning.
Ethyl alcohol, although used in the food industry, is also unsafe. It quickly enters the bloodstream (the body absorbs the substance through the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines). Ethanol does not affect the functioning of the nervous system in the best way, causing either oppression or sometimes too strong excitement.
It is also worth knowing that after each intake of alcohol (even in not very large doses), part of the brain cells die. And this is a scientifically proven fact. Particles of the cerebral cortex killed by alcohol are excreted from the body along with urine.
Almost all internal organs are affected by alcohol. Most of all "goes" to the liver, kidneys, pancreas, gall bladder. Excessive alcohol consumption causes:
- inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis);
- oncological diseases (of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver, colon);
- sleep disturbance.
Ethanol and Pregnancy
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is one of the most important elements for pregnant women. The thing is that this vitamin contributes to the proper development of the spinal cord of the embryo, and then throughout the pregnancy affects the correct formation of the fetus. Folic acid is necessary to create DNA - a molecule that actually carries the code for the continuation of life. In addition, proper cell division in an already formed organism will also become impossible without an adequate intake of folic acid.
Alcohol blocks the body's ability to absorb vitamin B9 and deactivates the substance already contained in tissues and cells. Scientists suggest that the development of breast cancer and some other types of cancer is the result of a lack of folic acid due to alcohol abuse.
The consumption of drinks containing ethyl alcohol causes intoxication, the level of which depends on the amount of alcohol taken. The presence of alcohol in the body is determined laboratory, by examining blood or urine, but an overdose of alcohol is noticeable by external signs. The most common:
- confusion or unconsciousness;
- lack of coordination;
- nausea and vomiting;
- slow or intermittent breathing;
- memory loss;
The effect of alcohol poisoning is enhanced even more if you take alcohol on the background of some medications. Do not combine ethanol with antidepressants, paracetamol, painkillers or sedatives, anticonvulsants.
And completely abandoning alcohol is important:
- people diagnosed with alcoholism;
- with diseases of the liver and pancreas;
- with heart failure and a weak heart;
- persons with vascular diseases.
It is not so important what kind of alcoholic drink a person consumes, since alcohol is present in any of the options. It is important how alcohol is consumed. If you drink 7 servings of alcohol during Saturday, this is not at all equivalent to consuming a safe norm: 1 serving of a drink per day. In both cases, the effect on the body will be completely different. But, studies show, even if alcohol in small quantities appears in the diet 3-4 times a week - this is already a problem. The result is a 3-4-fold increase in the risk of developing myocardial infarction. Women in whose diet 2 spirits (even low alcohol) appear daily are almost 40% more at risk for developing breast cancer.
Alcohol and genes
Genetics, according to researchers, plays an important role in determining alcohol preferences. The rule of inheritance, discovered by Gregor Mendel, also works in the case of alcoholism.
The human body produces the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps to absorb alcohol. And this enzyme, as a rule, is present in the body in two variations: the first allows you to quickly destroy alcohol, the second does it slowly. People who drink alcohol in moderation produce both variants of the enzyme. Alcohol abusers have only one of the options, usually “fast acting”. In this case, the enzyme breaks down alcohol even before the body has time to benefit from it and the only effect of alcohol on the body is negative.
Alcohol entered our daily lives many centuries ago. It can be both useful and extremely harmful substance, if you do not follow the rules of use, as well as the dose of consumption of this substance. And this is the main thing that is important to remember about alcohols. Otherwise, alcohol turns into a drug, the effect of which is compared with cocaine.