A growing body of evidence reveals that most, if not all of the pharmacological and behavioral effects of alcohol should be attributed to its first metabolite, acetaldehyde, a Class-I level carcinogen produced as the liver breaks down alcohol believed to be as much as 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself, according to a study published in the June 2004 issue of the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry.
A standard drink contains about one-half ounce of pure alcohol. The liver can only process less than a quarter of an ounce of alcohol an hour. It takes about 6 hours to eliminate all the alcohol in 3 glasses of wine. That’s 6 hours of continuous exposure to acetaldehyde, possibly longer. As the liver converts acetaldehyde into acetic acid (urine), it reaches a saturation point and escapes into the bloodstream, inhibiting normal mitochondria function and reaction, causing membrane damage, stimulating the synthesis of collagen to form scar tissue, and causing ‘hangover’ symptoms including increased heart rate, headache, nausea–and worse.
Acetaldehyde toxicity has been linked in social drinkers to:
- Premature skin aging
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver, prostate, breast, lip, tongue, throat, and oesophagus cancer
- High blood pressure, arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke
- Alcohol cravings, dependency
As little as two drinks a day can dehydrate the skin enough to make your skin eventually wrinkle like a baked apple and your veins go spidey, according to Dr. Janet Maccaro, Ph.D. Acetaldehyde attacks the collagen and elastin that holds skin together, reducing elasticity and firmness. It robs the body of vitamin C, a crucial nutrient for healthy skin, and dilates blood vessels, leading to broken veins (telangiectasia).
Drinking before bedtime is even worse. The horizontal position of the body during sleep makes it easier for intoxicated capillaries to leak into soft tissue, resulting in skin stretching, facial puffiness, and faster wrinkle formation.
Acetaldehyde increases the risk of osteoporosis, because it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. This gets worse with age, especially for women, who tend to store more fat after 40, when the body takes longer to process alcohol.
Acetaldehyde even adds to your beer belly, says Payal Banka, a Nutritionist at Life Mojo Health Solutions. “When you drink, acetaldehyde is created, which signals your body to stop burning fat,” he says.
The neurons of the brain are the most adversely effected by acetaldehyde poisoning, which impairs brain function by interfering with the activity of neurotransmitters within and between the neurons. Acetaldehyde impairs memory and has been shown to be responsible for the amnesiac effects that may follow alcohol intoxication.
According to the journal Biochemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, acetaldehyde has been shown to damage certain genetic building blocks which are ultimately inserted into DNA. DNA is made up of chemicals called nucleotides which, when altered, can cause mutations that lead to cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and liver. Dr. Shinya Shibutani, a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says, “Prolonged alcohol intake beyond the capacity of detoxification of acetaldehyde in the body may increase cancer risk.”
Drug manufacturers are aware of the role of acetaldehyde. Disulfiram (Antabuse®), a drug used in the treatment of alcoholism, works by blocking the natural metabolism of acetaldehyde, leading to headache, nausea, vomiting, flushing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, increased blood pressure — a Super-Sized ‘hangover’.
Young social drinkers–particularly those with a genetic history of alcoholism and unaware of acetaldehyde’s powerful reinforcing properties, may be playing with a loaded gun. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that alcoholics display a 60% higher blood acetaldehyde level than non-alcoholics given the same dose of alcohol.
Risk To Social Drinkers
According to a 2001 Harris Interactive survey of 900 people aged 21 and older, approximately 55 percent of respondents said they consume alcohol beverages at least once a week, and reported symptoms from as few as just three alcohol drinks from the previous night.
A study published in the June 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine concluded, “Although hangover is associated with alcoholism, most of its cost is incurred by the light-to-moderate drinker. Those who experience greater hangovers sometimes choose to drink more alcohol in order to relieve the adverse effects. Therefore, treatment of hangovers could actually mitigate total alcohol consumption.”
A 2009 Oxford University study was among the first to link low-to-moderate alcohol consumption to breast cancer in women who drink as little as a single alcoholic beverage a day. “There were no minimum levels of alcohol consumption that could be considered to be without risk,” according to cancer epidemiologist and study researcher Naomi Allen. The study found as many as 11% of breast cancers can be attributed to alcohol consumption.
“It is not necessary to drink huge amounts of alcohol—even low amounts taken regularly in a sensitive person increases their risk,” according to Helmut Seitz, professor of alcohol research at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. “The cells don’t forget. This will initiate tumors 20 to 25 years later,” he says.
A 1997 study by the Research Institute of Public Health at the University of Kuopio, Finland found that 44% of men who reported having a hangover at least once a month were two and a half times more likely to suffer cardiovascular death.
A Natural Solution
A new supplement, Cheerz® IntelliShot™ and iTabs™ (available as a functional shot/mixer or tablets), includes a proprietary formula of amino acids, super-antioxidants and immune boosters based on pinus succinifera, or succinic acid, a key dicarboxylic acid in the Krebs cycle renowned in Europe as an effective natural chelator against free radicals, infections, alcohol, and other toxins for centuries. The supplement also contains N-acetyl cysteine, to increase the oxidation cycle of alcohol, and Milk Thistle Extract (silymarin), shown to protect against toxins and substances harmful to the liver and other cells in the body and brain.
The Cheerz supplement has garnered compelling anecdotal evidence as a natural chelating agent and neural system bio-stimulant, supporting hepatic function and recovery processes by activating the second half-cycle of tricarboxylic acids to accelerate the decomposition of acetaldehyde, and energization of oxidation processes in the mitochondria. Two mitochondrial reactions are linked to convert NADH to NAD. NADH oxidase converts NADH to NAD, while in the presence of the enzyme succinic acid dehydrogenase, the supplement drives a reaction converting FAD cofactor to FADH2.
Recommended by doctors including a hepatologist, Cheerz may help social alcohol consumers maintain their health in 3 ways:
- 1. Helping to slow and reduce the initial conversion of alcohol into acetaldehyde
2. Helping speed the conversion of acetaldehyde into harmless acetic acid
3. Scavenging and chelating unmetabolized acetaldehyde and alcohol congeners
Source for the following studies: National Center for Biotechnology Information, PubMed, National Library of Medicine
"In the United States, related absenteeism and poor job performance cost $148 billion annually (average annual cost per working adult, $2000). Although hangover is associated with alcoholism, most of its cost is incurred by the light-to-moderate drinker. Patients with hangover may pose substantial risk to themselves and others despite having a normal blood alcohol level. Hangover may also be an independent risk factor for cardiac death."
"No evidence suggests that alleviation of hangover symptoms leads to further alcohol consumption, and the discomfort caused by such symptoms may do so. Therefore, treatment seems warranted."
The alcohol hangover, Wiese JG, Shlipak MG, Browner WS., Ann Intern Med. 2000 Jun 6;132(11):897-902.; PMID: 10836917
"Acetaldehyde self-infusion requires the activation of dopamine neurons. Acetaldehyde was also shown to induce strong amnesiac effects at doses below its sedative threshold. These results indicate that acetaldehyde impairs memory. Similar results were obtained with ethanol in previous studies (Aversano et al., 2002). Acetaldehyde might mediate or be involved in the amnesiac effects observed after acute alcohol intoxications."
"Acetaldehyde could contribute to the reinforcing effects of ethanol in several ways. Acetaldehyde exhibits many of the properties that are usually expressed by addictive drugs and therefore suggested that acetaldehyde may play a significant role in alcohol addiction."
The Role of Acetaldehyde in the Central Effects of Ethanol, Quertemont E, Grant KA, Correa M, Arizzi MN, Salamone JD, Tambour S, Aragon CM, McBride WJ, Rodd ZA, Goldstein A, Zaffaroni A, Li TK, Pisano M, Diana M.; Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Feb;29(2):221-34; PMID: 15714045
"Overall, the ICSA data suggest that ACD (acetaldehyde) can produce reinforcing effects within the posterior VTA of P rats and that ACD is a more potent (1000-fold) reinforcer in this region than is ethanol."
"Acetaldehyde, the first product of ethanol metabolism, is a 1,000-fold more potent reinforcer than ethanol (alcohol). Acetaldehyde has been suggested to contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. There is substantial evidence that acetaldehyde at least contributes to the reinforcing effects of alcohol and is therefore involved in alcohol consumption and abuse."
Genetic polymorphism in ethanol metabolism: acetaldehyde contribution to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, Quertemont E.; Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;9(6):570-81.; PMID: 15164086
"The results indicated higher blood acetaldehyde and ethanol concentrations in alcoholic individuals acutely poisoned with ethanol in comparison to acutely poisoned social drinkers. The acetaldehyde/ethanol ratio, used in the study, is higher in alcoholics as well and the difference is statistically significant."
Acetaldehyde concentration in acute ethanol-intoxicated patients addicted to alcohol , Gawlikowski T, Piekoszewski W, Gomolka E, Krol A.; Przegl Lek. 2004;61(4):310-3; PMID: 15521590
"Acetaldehyde was found to be more potent than alcohol in suppressing testosterone release." (Badr et al, 1977; Cobb et al, 1978)
"The biotransformation of alcohol to acetaldehyde in the testes competed for cofactors with the process involved in testosterone production thereby preventing testosterone production." (Ellingboe and Varanelli 1979; Gordon et al, 1980)
Oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde and free radicals by rat testicular microsomes, Quintans LN, Castro GD, Castro JA.; Arch Toxicol. 2005 Jan;79(1):25-30. Epub 2004 Nov; PMID: 15526191
"A total of 239 men (43.6%) reported having a hangover at least monthly. During an average follow-up time of 6.7 years, these men had a 2.36-fold risk of cardiovascular death compared with men with fewer hangovers, with adjustment for age and total alcohol consumption."
Frequent hangovers and cardiovascular mortality in middle-aged men, Kauhanen J, Kaplan GA, Goldberg DD, Cohen RD, Lakka TA, Salonen JT.; Epidemiology. 1997 May;8(3):310-4; PMID: 9115028
"Physiologically active tetrahydroisoquinolines increase in humans during long-term alcohol consumption, presumably because of acetaldehyde’s direct condensation with catecholamines."
Dopamine-related tetrahydroisoquinolines: significant urinary excretion by alcoholics after alcohol consumption, Collins MA, Nijm WP, Borge GF, Teas G, Goldfarb C.; Science. 1979 Dec 7;206(4423):1184-6; PMID: 505002
"Blood acetaldehyde concentrations were significantly elevated after a moderate ethanol dose in 20 healthy young men with alcoholic parents or siblings compared to matched controls with no familial alcoholism. Young, healthy men with family histories of alcoholism who might be predisposed to alcoholism themselves also demonstrate increased acetaldehyde levels."
Ethanol ingestion: differences in blood acetaldehyde concentrations in relatives of alcoholics and controls, Schuckit MA, Rayses V.; Science. 1979 Jan 5;203(4375):54-5.; PMID: 758678
"Indeed, our group reported that alcoholics display a 60% higher blood acetaldehyde level than non-alcoholics given the same dose of alcohol."
Characteristics of acetaldehyde oxidation in rat liver mitochondria, Hasumura Y, Teschke R, Lieber CS; J Biol Chem. 1976 Aug 25;251(16):4908-13; PMID: 956168
"The plateau level of acetaldehyde was significantly higher in alcoholics than in non-alcoholics. "Acetaldehyde causes mitochondrial dysfunction which in turn promotes higher acetaldehyde levels; this circular process could result in progressive liver damage. It is conceivable that the decreased capacity of injured mitochondria to dispose of the toxic acetaldehyde might initiate a self-sustaining mechanism of liver injury by promoting the accumulation of acetaldehyde which aggravates the mitochondrial dysfunction."
Effect of chronic alcohol consumption on ethanol and acetaldehyde metabolism, Lieber CS, DeCarli LM, Feinman L, Hasumura Y, Korsten M, Matsuzaki S, Teschke R.; Adv Exp Med Biol. 1975;59:185-227.; PMID: 241214