Livin' on the MDedge

Auto-brewery syndrome and hangovers as ‘illnesses’


Food for thought/fermentation

The earliest known alcoholic beverage in the world was a fermented drink of rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit and/or grape that was brewed about 9,000 years ago in China’s Yellow River Valley.

intestines and stomach pain Therakorn/Getty Images

Now there’s another candidate. Meet Klebsiella pneumonia, a common type of gut bacteria that just happens to make its own alcohol and appears to be the cause of a rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome, which causes those affected to become drunk after eating alcohol-free and high-sugar food.

A group of Chinese investigators had a patient with auto-brewery syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and found he had several strains of K. pneumonia in his gut that produced high levels of alcohol. Then they sampled the gut microbiota from 43 NAFLD patients and 48 healthy people: 60% of the NAFLD patients had high- and medium-alcohol–producing K. pneumonia in their gut, compared with 6% of the controls.

When the team gave mice with NAFLD that had the alcohol-producing bacteria an antibiotic that killed K. pneumonia, their condition was reversed.

“These bacteria damage your liver just like alcohol, except you don’t have a choice,” lead author Jing Yuan said in a written statement.

That got us wondering: What if you do have a choice? Would a diet high in Cabernet and Merlot grapes give K. pneumonia the makings of Château Lafite Rothschild? Would you get Grey Goose if you ate enough French wheat? Would consumption of Optic or Belgravia malts give you Glenfiddich?

Why Ah-nold is more pumped than you

If you’ve watched “Pumping Iron” or “The Terminator,” you know the star of those films, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is driven to achieve his goals. Such as remorselessly squeezing the bodybuilding dreams of fellow “Pumping Iron” star Lou Ferrigno like a tube of toothpaste. Or finding Sarah Connor.

sports nerd with sweat bands and glasses Nastco/Getty Images

Given that quality, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that the seven-time Mr. Olympia with the 50-pound Austrian accent would somehow become California’s governator.

But why? Because Ah-nold is clearly a human bursting at his cyborglike biceps with “planfulness.”

Planfulness is the personality trait possessed by those who develop a clear plan when they have a goal that’s important to them. To find out how planfulness interacts with achieving long-term goals, University of Oregon researchers looked at the gym attendance of 282 people looking to get pumped up at a campus rec center.

Using a Planfulness Scale, the investigators tracked their study participants’ progress toward pumpitude. The ones who rated themselves as strong on planfulness were more likely to hit the gym consistently than were those with scrawny scores. In fact, a one-point increase on the five-point Planfulness Scale meant more than 14 extra gym visits over the course of two semesters.

Perhaps Ms. Connor should blame Hollywood’s planfulness for box-office profit, not Ah-nold’s, for the relentless pursuit of her in multiple “Terminator” movies.

A six-pack of illness juice, please

College students, rejoice: Your flimsy excuse to your professor that you’re sick and can’t go to class (when in reality you were out drinking – fruit juice for those with auto-brewery syndrome – all night and have a raging hangover) just got a lot stronger. That hangover is now classified as an illness.

Man with headache sitting on couch drinking water Fizkes/Getty Images

Well, in Germany at least.

A court in Frankfurt has recently ruled against the manufacturer of a supposed “antihangover” cure, a product that contained antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamins meant to combat the headaches, nausea, and tiredness associated with hangovers.

According to the German court, this is false advertising. Hangovers, by their definition, represent a small (clearly they’ve never dealt with a big hangover headache) and temporary change to the body’s normal state that is cured over time, which falls under the classification of an illness. And, in Germany, it is illegal for food and drink products to claim that they can cure illnesses.

Of course, the Germans have nailed the timing of this groundbreaking decision perfectly, as Oktoberfest is underway in Munich.

We still doubt your professor will believe your “Oh, I’m very sick today, I can’t come in” email, but at least you’ll be technically correct. And that’s the best sort of correct.

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