Getty Images
Getty Images

Does Eating Yeast Before Boozing Mitigate Drunkenness?

Getty Images
Getty Images

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!

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

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

Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane

What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

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


More from mental floss studios