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  (Source: Warner Bros. Pictures)
Forget carbonation, oxygenation could make your liquid sin a little less harmful

There are numerous dangers of being under the influence of alcohol -- from damage to your body, to loss of coordination, and inhibitions (which each can lead to countless dangers) -- nonetheless, the sensation of inebriation is undeniably pleasant for most.  So what if you could have your liquid sin in a safer form?  

That's a goal that Korean doctors Kwang-il Kwon and Hye Gwang Jeong researching at the Chungnam National University in South Korea feel they have achieved.  Unlike other research groups that have focused on creating "alcohol substitutes" -- typically liquid pharmaceuticals – the researchers examined oxygenated alcohol, a popular form of alcohol in Korea. Oxygenated alcohol has the same bubbly appearance as carbonated alcohols like American beers, but instead of carbon dioxide, the main gas is diatomic oxygen.

To test the health benefits of oxygenation, the researchers gave subjects 19.5 percent alcohol uncarbonated drinks and 19.5 percent alcohol oxygenated drinks at doses of 240 ml and 360 ml (about as much alcohol as would be in 2.5 and 4 80-proof shots, respectively).  

Intriguingly, the patients indulging in the oxygenated beverages sobered up 20 to 30 minutes faster.  The more oxygen, the faster the return to sobriety; patients drinking 360 ml of 20 ppm oxygen spirits returned to sobriety 23.3 minutes faster than those drinking non-oxygenated spirits, and when the oxygen levels were bumped to 25 ppm, the participants sobered 27 minutes faster.

The study also found that those drinking the oxygenated liquors had a lower incidence of hangovers than those consuming standard alcohol.  Those who did experience hangovers found them to be less severe.

The results indicate that oxygenation minimizes some of alcohol's negative effects on the body.  Sobriety is determined by how fast the body can break down alcohol, and the quicker return to sobriety could indicate that oxygenated alcohol is processed faster, leading to less stress on the liver and other organs.  Likewise, less hangovers could indicate less changes to brain blood flow and a reduced risk of brain damage.  

The reason behind the faster breakdown of alcohol appears to be that hepatic enzymes require oxygen to function.  When the oxygenated alcohol is pumped to the liver, some of the oxygen sticks with the ethanol, allowing the liver enzymes to operate more efficiently.

Describes Dr. Kwon, "The oxygen-enriched alcohol beverage reduces plasma alcohol concentrations faster than a normal dissolved-oxygen alcohol beverage does. This could provide both clinical and real-life significance. The oxygen-enriched alcohol beverage would allow individuals to become sober faster, and reduce the side effects of acetaldehyde without a significant difference in alcohol's effects. Furthermore, the reduced time to a lower BAC may reduce alcohol-related accidents. It seems that these drinks can maintain a high dissolved-oxygen concentration for about 10 to 20 days before the stopper is removed, and for 70 minutes after removing the stopper, respectively, at room temperature."

Among the major manufacturers of oxygenated liquor in South Korea is Sunyang Co., which makes the popular O2 Lin spirit.  The company claims that the oxygenated alcoholic beverage, "helps clarify your brain, energizes your body cells, and maintains healthy and resilient skin."

While that might not hold true, the new study indicates that the oxygenated alcohol may well be significantly better for you than its non-oxygenated counterpart and be a more pleasant experience.  

Perhaps the only question that remains is whether the oxygenated drinks can equal their non-oxygenated counterparts in taste and mouth-feel.  If they can, the study may indicate a significant leap towards Star Trek-like "synthehol".

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Two problems
By Kunou on 3/2/2010 5:43:36 PM , Rating: 2
This has some value but also isn't quite how it sounds.

First, the mouthfeel won't be the same. Notably, for a carbonated beverage it's not the bubbles you feel but rather the carbonic acid. Even if you drank that beer or soda in a high-pressure environment where the CO2 isn't foaming out it would still taste the same. This means that if you replace the CO2 with O2, even if it's fizzy it's not going to taste like carbonated.

Second, that limit they give on how fresh things have to be is important, and might even be too generous. Oxygen is highly reactive, and getting too much oxygen into many fermented beverages will make some serious off flavors before long.

End result: this might be good for certain drinks, and might make a fun new experience on its own, but that beer, sparkling wine, or rum and coke just isn't going to taste like the original. It will either taste flat despite still fizzing, or else it will be like nothing you've had before. I'll try it, but hopes aren't high.

RE: Two problems
By funkyd99 on 3/2/2010 6:35:24 PM , Rating: 2
Third problem: Korea isn't known for their alcoholic beverages, like Germany is known for beer, Ireland whiskey, Italy wine, etc etc. You probably won't find any Korean alcohol in the states unless you go to a Korean market. The simple reason is, most Korean alcohol just isn't very good. Soju is an evil, evil beverage that has every intent to either leave you in a gutter or get your arrested (and I'm sure many Koreans would back me up on that :) Even worse, since soju isn't carbonated, this little invention will make it no less evil.

Then again, there is only so much you can distill with rice, and I do believe they have Bud Light beat with Cass anyday.

RE: Two problems
By ajfink on 3/2/2010 7:03:56 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand why Korean men love soju that much. It's like weaker vodka and they drink it like water when "the boys" go out for "business dinners."

Korea does have OTHER drinks - such as makgeoli or dongdongju - that are much better.

The beers aren't great, obviously.

RE: Two problems
By daar on 3/3/2010 5:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
funky: Soju can be found in most alcohol stores, popular on college campuses.

Yes, it's quite evil. It is weaker than vodka but goes down a hell of a lot better than vodka for the price; you can drink it like a beer quite easily even if you're not used to drinking. It's probably why a lot of people chug it down not expecting to pass out 10 minutes later, though.

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