ronald wrote:Inadvertently alcohol came to mind. so which do you think is better for your dear old liver...
drinking 100ml of whisky in 15 minutes, or slowly, say over 2 hours.
common sense screams to me that it is frightfully obvious that your liver would be better off dealing with smaller amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time.
but is this really true? does anyone have a firm medical perspective on this?
Oh, ok then
The following is simplified. I don't claim to understand all the complexities of the liver (which is an absolutely fascinating organ by the way. The heart and brain get all the glory but the liver is the real hero) Essentially Ize's answer above is pretty much there.
Looking at the amounts in your question, we are talking pretty small beer (or whisky) here. You are talking about 3 to 4 units depending on the abv of the whisky and a healthy liver will deal with that amount without much of a problem whether it is drunk over 15 minutes or 2 hours. Your brain, of course, will feel the effects much quicker.
If you look at multiples then it does make a difference. For example multiply your example by 4. A healthy liver will metabolise alcohol at a rate of about one unit an hour (although this is very variable according to factors including lean body weight, sex, health and prior exposure to alcohol). If you drink 16 units in an hour your liver will have cleared one unit in that hour and you will have 15 still in your system, enough to have a major intoxicating effect on all but the most hardened of drinkers, and maybe enough to be dangerous to some. If you drink your 16 units in 8 hours your liver will have removed 8 units leaving 8 in your system. Still significant but much less than if you downed it all very quickly. Again, however, for most of us who have a dram or two of experience under our belts this is not going to worry the liver too much unless you are doing it a couple of times or more a week, most weeks over a period of a few years. If you are a susceptible individual this will put you on the road to cirrhosis.
However, increase the amounts more and you could be putting your liver, and hence your life, in more immediate danger. The liver metabolises alcohol and all other sustances with proteins called enzymes. The liver will manufacture these constantly but at a slow rate, these are stored for use as and when needed. When you go on a real bender it is possible to reach a blood alcohol level where the liver does not have enough stored enzymes to cope and cannot manufacture more quickly enough. At this point your liver, and the rest of your system is poisoned by alcohol. In the liver this causes inflammation and shutdown of the liver cells called acute alcoholic hepatitis. This requires urgent and intesive medical therapy and is not infrequently fatal.
In essence then, the quicker you drink a large amount of alcohol the more likely you are to reach potentially dangerous blood alcohol levels. Drinking smaller amounts more quickly will make you drunk more quickly but your liver is likely to cope.
Of course another important point is if you drink your drams too quickly you are not savouring them and doing them justice. What's the hurry?