3 Common Myths About Alcohol

Myths concerning alcohol consumption are: beer causes a beer gut, sucking on pennies tricks the breathalyzer test, and nightcaps help you sleep.

For centuries, alcohol has been a social lubricant that keeps the good times flowing. Various forms of drink have been used to supplement diets, cure medical problems and aid in digestion. However, somewhere through the course of history, we came up with some strange beliefs about alcohol consumption. Let’s take a look at some prevailing myths about drinking alcohol.

Police officers wait 15 minutes before administering the Breathalyzer test, during which time they make you talk and check that you don’t have anything in your mouth.
Police officers wait 15 minutes before administering the Breathalyzer test, during which time they make you talk and check that you don’t have anything in your mouth.

1. The Beer Gut

There’s an unspoken understanding that anyone who drinks any amount of beer will suffer the dreaded beer gut. We’ve seen the family member or coworker with a fat tire around their midsection and dubbed a “beer belly.”

In reality, the beer gut doesn’t actually exist, or, more specifically, you can’t gain a gut from drinking beer. According to a study conducted in Britain and the Czech Republic, the amount of beer you drink has no link to the size of your stomach. What about the people who do appear to have the characteristic beer belly? As it turns out, it’s all genetic. That’s right. Just like the color of your eyes and hair, beer gut is just something you’re genetically predisposed to. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to have one.

So it’s okay to drink from your tumblers and sip from your German steins, but remember that beer still contains a good amount calories, so drinking a lot of it will obviously lead to some sort of weight gain. Assuming you perform the slightest bit of exercise and eat something even remotely healthy, you shouldn’t gain a huge gut. Of course, if you’re consuming massive amounts of beer every day, doing either of those things is probably not in the agenda.

 

2.  Sucking on pennies tricks the Breathalyzer.

So you’ve been pulled over for swerving between two lanes while puking out the window. You keep it cool and shove a handful of pennies into your mouth thinking you can fool the police officer and his handy Breathalyzer.

The theory is that the copper on the penny absorbs any ethanol in your mouth, so when you do blow into the Breathalyzer—a machine designed to measure the ethanol content in your breath—it’ll show that you’re as sober as a newborn baby. Except copper probably doesn’t soak up ethanol, and even if it did, the modern penny only contains about 2.5 percent copper.

Even if all of that wasn’t true, police officers wait 15 minutes before administering the Breathalyzer test, during which time they make you talk and check that you don’t have anything in your mouth. Explaining why you have a bunch of pennies in your mouth while you have a bunch of pennies in your mouth isn’t exactly easy. The test also measures air from deep in your lungs, regardless of what’s in your mouth.

Really, if you’re going to go through that trouble and potentially choke on a penny, you’re better off calling a cab.

3. Nightcaps help you sleep.

In the age of cigars and smoking jackets, a little tumbler of alcohol before bed was the norm, a way to relax and loosen the muscles before sleep.

While large amounts of alcohol consumption will cause you to black out—not exactly the same as peaceful sleep, a nightcap is only moderately effective…for the first few hours, during which time your body is metabolizing the alcohol.  Once that wears off, your body turns its attention back on you, at which point you can look forward to snoring, nightmares and night terrors, late night headaches, and problems with digestion.

Things only get worse if you have sleep apnea. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, but it can get to the point that you stop breathing for extended periods of time. In other words, a nightcap and sleep apnea could kill you.

breathalyzer image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

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