Saturday, 19 July 2008

Better Living Through Science

Back in 1955, a Yale University professor of physiology showed that it is physically impossible to get drunk on beer:

For people to show consistently the “abnormal behavior” which goes with intoxication, the alcohol content of their blood must be 0.15 per cent or higher.

The average alcohol content of American beers is 3.7 per cent by weight. In order for the alcohol blood level to be at 0.15 per cent, there would have to be two and one-half quarts of 3.7 beer in the stomach. But the capacity of the human stomach is one and one-half to two quarts.

Therefore, no one can drink enough beer at one time to get intoxicated, according to theory. As for doing it by degrees: beer is destroyed or eliminated in the body at the rate of one-third of a quart an hour. So three quarts would have to be consumed in two or three hours, and this, he said, was “physiologically unnatural.”

The last point would mean two to three pints an hour (of 3.7% abw beer). Of course, most beer these days is a little higher in alcohol, and the drunk driving limit is a little bit lower than it was back in 1955 (.08 - .10, varies by state).

But who am I to doubt a Yale professor of physiology, and what he considers "unnatural?" The Strib concludes that the story (from its archives) "demonstrates that you can be right about all the facts and still come to the wrong conclusion."


Douglas said...

I can remember troops at Fort Riley Kansas during the hot summer of 1969 ordering 3.2 beer by the pitcher without glasses. The Yale professor was thus proven wrong along time ago but it took time and effort....

Maureen Ogle said...

Wierdly (or not), it was another Yale professor who testified at the Congressional beer hearings of late 1932.

Congress planned to redefine "non-intoxicating" so that it could modify Volstead and bring back "legal" beer. The professor offered up a detailed explanation of why 3.2% was not and could not be intoxicating.

Don't say Yale's never done anything for us!