|MadSci Network: Biochemistry|
When ethanol enters the body, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it spreads throughout the body. When it reaches the brain, it causes partial removal of water from areas important to thought, speech and movement. This causes a decrease of inhibitions and a slowing of reflexes. That's why Shakespeare wrote that alcohol "giveth the desire but taketh away the ability".
While ethanol is circulating through the blood, the liver is trying to remove it from the body. It does this by first converting the alcohol to acetaldehyde, and then to acetic acid (this is the same acid found in vinegar). The acetic acid is then excreted in urine. Because the liver is the primary organ for the detoxification of ethanol, it also receives much of the damage when ethanol is consumed in large quantities.
Generally speaking, alcohol acts as a depressant and a diuretic (increases urine output). It is toxic to both the brain and the liver when consumed in high quantities, although it may have some health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, if consumed in moderation.
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