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Does Eating Yeast Before Boozing Mitigate Drunkenness?

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That's what Esquire's Aaron Goldfarb reports Jim Koch said. As the co-founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company, Koch could use a trick to avoid getting sloppy at all the alcohol-soaked events he attends. The tip came to him by way of his late friend, beer legend and biochemist "Dr. Joe" —or Joseph Owades, PhD.

Owades speculated that consuming a teaspoon of active yeast per beer—add it to yogurt to make it easier to eat—before a night of drinking will mitigate the effects of the alcohol. Koch claims he's been following this advice with great success for years. The science behind the theory is thus: yeast contains an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH), which breaks apart alcohol molecules into carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Normally, this process occurs in the liver as your body metabolizes your favorite adult beverage but the thinking is that with yeast in your stomach, the alcohol will be broken down into its harmless constituents before it reaches the liver, thereby saving your bloodstream and your dignity.

Esquire put this science to a rather, well, unscientific test with several boozy experiments. They concluded that while it's not so good at counteracting the effects of binge drinking, it will keep you lucid (and, later, relatively hangover-free) for a night of "responsible" drinking over many hours.

As an embarrassing lightweight who doesn't drink beer (Amaretto sours are my drink of choice), I decided that rather than test this, I would reach out to some food scientists for an informed opinion. The fine folks at Pennsylvania State University's Food Science Department were happy to help.

For the most part, they took issue with the presumed simplicity of the reaction Koch is counting on. So while Owades' science isn't wrong, per se, he's ignoring other factors, like the stomach environment. But the three professors who weighed in cited different levels of skepticism. First, there was Dr. John Hayes:

It sounds far fetched, and I highly doubt it works. However, until someone does a carefully controlled empirical study, we can't be certain. Still, I personally wouldn’t risk a DUI doing this.

Dr. Ryan Elias was more encouraged, saying, "Brewer's yeast (S. cerevisiae) are pretty good at making the enzyme in question here (alcohol dehydrogenase), as they need it to survive high ethanolic environments (e.g. beer, wine)." He also speculated that the yeast could conceivably "perform their work at a rate that's competitive with absorption in vivo." However, he would only go so far as to grant that "some elements" made sense, stipulating that we need to establish the impact of the stomach's pH level.

In response, Dr. Joshua Lambert offered the context to dismantle Owades' theory:

I don't know what the survival rate of yeast is under stomach pH. Some of it does survive, but I'm not sure it can compete. As for the enzyme, the optimal pH for activity is between 8.6 and 9 (i.e. basic) and it needs a cofactor, which while abundant inside the yeast is probably not readily available in the stomach or small intestine.

But then how does Koch stay on his feet while many beers deep? And how can you drink your friends under the table or, if you're me, maintain your composure after more than one Amaretto sour? Lambert has some thoughts on that as well:

I think it is much more likely that the reason that Jim Koch can drink beer all night without getting drunk is an adaptive response in his own body. Alcohol dehydrogenase and cytochrome P450 2E1, which also metabolizes alcohol, are inducible. The activity of the enzyme goes up after exposure. Regular alcohol consumers have higher levels than those that don't imbibe. It is an interesting story, and scientifically possible, but much less likely than an adaptive response by the drinker's liver.

You hear that? If you want to be able to imbibe like Jim Koch, drink up!

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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