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 18 January 2018

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Alcoholic drinks produced by fermentation have a greater effect on gastric emptying than those produced by distillation

A study in the latest issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology has examined the effect of beer, red wine and whisky on gastric emptying and finds that fermented drinks, but not distilled alcoholic beverages, can inhibit gastric emptying.

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Scientists from two hospitals in Germany decided to compare the effect of beer, red wine and whisky on gastric emptying in a controlled group of subjects. They also compared the effect of comparable pure ethanol solutions on the same group.

On separate days, 10 healthy, fasted individuals received the following solutions, in random order, through a gastric tube: 500 mL beer, red wine, comparable pure ethanol solutions (4% and 10% v/v), glucose (5.5% and 11.4% w/v) and water, 125 mL whisky and 40% (v/v) ethanol (both followed by 125 mL water) and 250 mL water.

Gastric emptying of these solutions was then assessed using ultrasonography of the antrum.

Beer and red wine – had the longest gastric emptying times
Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology

The researchers found that half-emptying times of each of the ethanol solutions (4%, 10% and 40% v/v) were significantly longer than those associated with water, either 500 mL or 250 mL (compare 22.6, 22.7, and 27.8 min, with 14.6 and 13.2 min respectively).

In the cases of beer (39.3 min) and red wine 72.6 min), half-emptying times were much increased compared to those of the corresponding ethanol concentrations, while whisky was emptied at almost the same rate as that observed with 40% (v/v) ethanol.

Glucose 5.5% and 11.4% (w/v) however, was significantly and dose dependently slower (29.7 and 64.8 min) than water

The authors conclude that pure ethanol in concentrations of 4%, 10% and 40% (vv) inhibits gastric emptying, and that the inhibitory effect of beer and red wine, but not of whisky, is stronger than that of their comparable ethanol concentrations.

They suggest that the caloric content and non-alcoholic ingredients in alcoholic beverages produced by fermentation, as in the case of beer and wine, but not those in alcoholic drinks produced by distillation (whisky) may well be responsible for the observed effect.

Scand J Gastroenterol 2004; 39(17): 638 - 644
01 July 2004

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