|MadSci Network: Biochemistry|
The major considerations involving osmolarity in biological systems are:
Salt is a very small molecule that dissociates in the stomach acid into virtually free sodium ions, which are even smaller. Sodium ions are small enough to permeate through the membranous pores of the stomach and the small intestine. Further, the osmolarity is rich enough to deplete the stomach wall of water, dehydrating the stomach wall. This makes many of us feel queasy.
Letís be careful to not downplay this osmolarity difficulty with sodium. It can also cause whole system dehydration with resultant multiple system shutdown.
Sugar solutions, greater than 6%, will also cause dehydration but by a different mechanism. Sugars are much larger than sodium ions and usually require a receptor to be absorbed. However, the osmolarity is still an issue and water will be extracted from the body in order to dilute it. This happens much slower and may not be noticed so quickly.
It is for this reason that the NFL dilutes its drinks to roughly 2% during a contest. Less than 6% should present no problem.
Thanks for your question!
Peter, Mad Scientist
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Biochemistry.