seeking a responsible alternative to alcohol©




The forum for the research and development of Safe Alternatives to Alcohol - SARAA's


Alcohol abuse can break families apart


Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death in the world today among males under 50


To ignore the terrible harms Alcohol does to society is no longer an option.

By philipedwards, Aug 21 2017 08:35AM

Harms of Alcohol: Liver Disease

The majority of deaths associated with alcohol in England and Wales are caused by alcohol related liver disease1.

Why the liver?

The liver is critical for absorbing energy and nutrients from the things that we eat and drink. However, it is also the key site for detoxification, ie for protecting the human body from potentially harmful substances. After alcohol is absorbed into the blood via the digestive system it migrates to the liver. Because the human body cannot store alcohol it is treated as a poison2. The liver contains specific enzymes which respond quickly to alcohol consumption by breaking alcohol down and removing it from the body. However, large quantities of alcohol can quickly overwhelm the limited enzyme stores and cause blood alcohol levels to rise. This is when an individual would start to feel the psychological effects of alcohol.

The majority of alcohol is metabolised by the liver it is therefore the organ most vulnerable to alcohol damage3.

How serious is the problem?

Quite serious. The liver is a vital organ that can perform miracles daily when we take care of it, keeping us healthy and well. But eventually, repeated assaults from binge drinking and continued alcohol abuse will lead to damage, including cirrhosis and ultimately to liver cancer2. The Guardian reported findings by Sheffield University’s influential Alcohol Research Group that 32,475 alcohol related deaths will be the result of liver cancer, and a further 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease7. This means that on average our best estimate is that c. 30 people will pass away each day as a result of liver damage caused by alcohol abuse.

How does alcohol damage the liver?

In several ways which can build up into a disastrous ‘perfect wave’. Liver disease is partly caused by scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis (scarring). The metabolisation of alcohol competes with that of fat within the liver4. This means that high alcohol consumption over time increases fat deposits in the liver, which can lead to the death of liver cells and subsequent scarring. This scar tissue causes the liver to become less functional so that it no longer performs as it should. With continued abuse, this condition can progress in a vicious circle to cause alcohol related liver disease.

The liver can also become damaged by free radicals which are created by alcohol2. Free radicals are unstable particles which attack molecules nearby and cause them damage.

Remarkably, the body has natural defence agents to tackle these radicals known as antioxidants. However, alcohol reduces the numbers of antioxidants in the liver, making the liver tissue even more vulnerable. Damage to the liver induced by alcohol causes the liver to become inflamed which if uncontrolled can cause further damage2.

How we can ensure an alternative doesn’t damage the liver?

Liver disease is the most likely pathological outcome of persistent chronic alcohol consumption2. It is also the most well-known and widely acknowledged health consequence of drinking alcohol. At Alcarelle we ask if it would not be sensible and desirable to make available alternative adult beverages which would metabolise differently through the liver, not creating dangerous intermediate chemicals that linger in the body in the same way as alcohol?

Research is currently underway at Alcarelle with the aim of developing potential alternatives that would inflict minimal liver damage. Would it not be a wonderful thing for drinks companies to be able to offer consumers safer alternative that also allow us to let our hair down?


1. Office for National Statistics (February 2014), ‘Liver disease biggest cause of alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales’

2. Institute of alcohol studies fact sheet, the health impacts of alcohol, 2016

3. Manzo-Avalos, S., & Saavedra-Molina, A. (2010). Cellular and Mitochondrial Effects of Alcohol Consumption. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(12), 4281–4304.

4. Patricia E. Molina, Jason D. Gardner, Flavia M. Souza-Smith, Annie M. Whitaker Alcohol Abuse: Critical Pathophysiological Processes and Contribution to Disease Burden, Physiology Published 2014

5. Ringborg U, ‘Alcohol and the risk of cancer’, in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (1998), Volume 22, 323S–328S

6. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An evidence review, 2016 Public Heath England

7. The Guardian:

By philipedwards, Aug 14 2017 07:09AM

Why an alcohol alternative? The true cost of drinking

Benefits of the alcohol industry

The production and retail of alcohol contributes £46 billion a year to the UK economy. It also creates some 770,000 jobs, most of these being in pubs, clubs and bars. The export of spirits generates £1.7 billion a year and £11 billion is collected by the government in England in alcohol excise duty2.

Economic cost of alcohol

The true economic burden of alcohol is more difficult to calculate, but estimates are possible. There are several categories to be considered when attempting to generate a figure; These include directs costs (to the healthcare system, criminal system and welfare system), indirect costs (reduced productivity, absenteeism, unemployment, decreased output, reduced earnings potential and premature pension or death), and intangible costs (pain and suffering and reduced quality of life)1.

A report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies has revealed that alcohol consumption significantly reduces productivity at work with 28% of UK workers admitting to going to work hungover; and that’s if they even make it in. Studies show high risk drinking can increase the probability of absenteeism by 53%2.

The report also found that being a problem drinker dramatically effects an individual’s chance of employment and is equivalent in career terms to not having a university degree. Finally, alcohol related premature death or early retirement was responsible for 167,000 years of working life lost in England in 2015 alone2.

Wider evidence compiled by Public Health England estimates the total cost of alcohol in England at between 1.3% and 2.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP)1,2. One growing concern is that the enormous socioeconomic burden of alcohol’s impact on society is not being met by the alcohol industry, but instead by the taxpayer.

Alcohol alternative - an economic solution

So, it’s not just the devastating health effects that result from limited drinking choices. With today’s rapid progress in science, there is no excuse for society ignoring the potential for healthier alternatives that would have a positive economic impact on all of us, drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

Alcarelle are targeting an alternative adult beverage which would induce relaxation and encourage jollity and social interaction. If successful, such a new product would ideally be licensed for alcohol companies to manufacture and distribute in the conventional way, through shops, bars and pubs, and therefore would not threaten the vital economic role that the alcohol industry currently performs. Fewer people with hangover and more people living longer and more productive lives would generate socioeconomic benefits for everyone.

Further reading

1. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An evidence review, 2016 Public Heath England

2. Splitting the bill: alcohol’s impact on the economy, an Institute Of Alcohol Studies Report, February 2017

By philipedwards, Aug 7 2017 07:51AM

Why an alcohol alternative? Putting you in control of your health

There will always be occasions to raise a glass of champagne or indulge in a fine wine. However, the development of an alternative adult beverage would allow the more health conscious among us to enjoy social situations guilt free.

Have your cake and eat it too.

Alcohol is produced when yeasts break down sugars through the natural process of fermentation. This is a process in which yeast extracts chemical energy from sugar. It is thought that humans originally developed a tolerance for alcohol to eat overripe fruit1. Historians tell us that the recreational consumption of alcoholic beverages has been part of human society for millennia.

However, chronic alcohol consumption produces unhappy results, and is becoming a growing health concern worldwide2. It is responsible for the development of over 200 diseases and injuries3. Harmful use of alcohol now ranks amongst the top 5 risk factors world-wide for disease, injury and death3. These health consequences can be illustrated by the fact that alcohol consumption was responsible for 1 million hospital admissions in England in 20164.

Recent studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is safe to consume, detrimental health effects can be seen with only a small amount of alcohol5.

The majority of alcohol consumed is metabolized in the liver. Enzymes convert alcohol to acetaldehyde and then acetate. The body has a limited capacity of these enzymes and so the liver can quickly become saturated and overwhelmed. This leads to increased blood alcohol levels and high concentrations of acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is linked to many of alcohol's most negative clinical outcomes6 including cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease, brain damage and cancer7.

Modern science and our understanding of how alcohol can damage human health has created an opportunity to develop an alternative adult beverage which would retain only the desirable features of alcohol’s pharmacological profile. This alternative would create a relaxed stress-free environment to encourage gregariousness and social exchange. Such an alternative would never replace alcohol entirely, and it would not need to. But it could instead bring wider choice and offer a positive option for the health-conscious consumer.


1. Carrigan, M.A., Uryasev, O., Frye, C.B., Eckman, B.L., Myers, C.R., Hurley, T.D. and Benner, S.A., 2015. Hominids adapted to metabolize ethanol long before human-directed fermentation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(2), pp.458-463.

2. World Health Organization, 2014. Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. World Health Organization.

3. Rehm, Jürgen, and Kevin D. Shield. “Alcohol and Mortality: Global Alcohol-Attributable Deaths From Cancer, Liver Cirrhosis, and Injury in 2010.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews 35.2 (2014): 174–183.

4. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An evidence review, 2016 Public Heath England

5. UK Chief Medical Offcers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review Summary of the proposed new guidelines January 2016

6. Patricia E. Molina, Jason D. Gardner, Flavia M. Souza-Smith, Annie M. Whitaker Alcohol Abuse: Critical Pathophysiological Processes and Contribution to Disease Burden, Physiology Published 2014

7. Institute Of Alcohol Studies Fact Sheet, The Health Impacts Of Alcohol, 2016

By philipedwards, Jul 28 2017 04:31PM

The morning after the night before…


Alarm seems louder, mouth is dryer, head is spinning, the unmistakable signs of the common alcohol hangover. The most frequently reported consequence of alcohol consumption1.


But what is a hangover, why do we get them and is there a way to avoid them?

Science of a hangover

Long story short, we don’t exactly know how a hangover is caused. However, scientists believe there are numerous factors that act together.

One popular theory is that a hangover is produced by dehydration as a result of alcohol consumption1. However, research has shown that dehydration alone doesn’t produce an alcohol hangover, although it may be a co-occurring phenomenon.

The two most convincing theories for the cause of alcohol hangover are a change in immune related factors, and the break down product of alcohol, acetaldehyde. Levels of immune cells were found to be raised, up to 13 hours after alcohol consumption2. Elevation of these cells also correlated with the severity of hangover reported3. These two findings suggest that increased immune response may play a role in producing an alcohol hangover.

When alcohol is metabolised, it produces the toxin acetaldehyde which is known to produce several symptoms similar to those reported during a hangover. This has led many researchers to investigate its involvement in producing a hangover. However, this metabolite is not present in the blood during alcohol hangover. Despite this, individuals who have mutations of the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of acetaldehyde, and so get higher levels of this chemical, are known to be more susceptible to hangovers3. Further research needs to be done to identify exactly how these factors interact to produce an alcohol hangover.


The severity of alcohol hangover is also influenced by the presence of congeners (ingredients in alcoholic beverages other than ethanol)3.

Cost of hangovers

In 2010 the US Centre of Disease Control stated that alcohol was responsible for $179 bn annual loss in US productivity4. Other outcomes of hangover which have been proven to adversely impact the economy are absenteeism, reduced performance and accidents5. In addition to the economic and social cost, hangovers can also effect long-term health and have been demonstrated to increase risk of cardiovascular death6.


Putting you in control of the morning after

Despite the disputed underlying cause, hangover is the most common consequence of drinking alcohol. Hangovers can have a massive impact on both our individual health, our daily performance, and on the wider economy. There will undoubtedly be consumer interest in an alternative adult beverage which does not produce a hangover.

Alcarelle intends creating a solution to hangover by developing a drink which induces relaxation and conviviality but does not cause the next day to be spent in darkness, binge watching Netflix!

1- Verster JC. The alcohol hangover–a puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol and alcoholism 2008; 43(2): 124-6.

2- Kim DJ, Kim W, Yoon SJ, Choi BM, Kim JS, Go HJ, Kim YK, Jeong J. Effects of alcohol hangover on cytokine production in healthy subjects. Alcohol 2003; 31(3): 167-70.

3- Penning, R., van Nuland, M., AL Fliervoet, L., Olivier, B. and C Verster, J., 2010. The pathology of alcohol hangover. Current drug abuse reviews, 3(2), pp.68-75.

4- Scholey, A., S Smith, G. and Trela, C., 2016. Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting. Current drug abuse reviews, 9(2), pp.106-112.

5- Prat, G., Adan, A. and Sánchez-Turet, M., 2009. Alcohol hangover: a critical review of explanatory factors. Hum Psychopharmacol, 24(4), pp.259-267.

6- Stephens, R. and C Verster, J., 2010. Editorial [The Importance of Raising the Profile of Alcohol Hangover Research]. Current drug abuse reviews, 3(2), pp.64-67.

By philipedwards, Jun 22 2017 10:28AM

Flushing out the alcohol

‘The alcohol flushing reaction’,’asian glow’, ‘red flush’ or ‘asian flush’. These are all names of a characteristic response to drinking alcohol that predominantly affects people of East Asian descent. Why does this reaction occur? And how can we use science to ensure we can all socialise safely?

What is the alcohol flushing reaction?

Alcohol is mostly broken down in the liver, first the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) breaks alcohol down to acetaldehyde. Next aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) turns acetaldehyde to acetate (a non-toxic substance which is then excreted)1. The chemical reaction is shown below:


Alcohol -(ADH)-> acetaldehyde -(ALDH)-> acetate


The flushing reaction is caused by a buildup of acetaldehyde. This occurs due to a genetic variation in the enzymes ADH or ALDH. Certain mutations are found in 30-50% of the East Asian population, which means 8% of the world's population can suffer from the alcohol flush reaction2. One mutation increases the activity of ADH, producing acetaldehyde more quickly, and another mutation slows the breakdown of Acetaldehyde by ALDH. This leads to the build-up of harmful acetaldehyde in the body. This toxic substance causes nausea, headaches and the dilation of the blood vessels, and this results in the characteristic flushing.

Red Faced bad habits

Research has shown that people who experience this uncomfortable reaction are less prone to alcohol abuse3. Some people have variants of both enzymes and cannot consume alcohol at all because the reaction is so severe.  However, it is important to remember that no single gene determines risk of alcoholism and other factors, such as social and environmental influences can also play a role.


Research indicates that due to the increased exposure to this toxic substance, these genetic variations may increase the risk of alcohol related cancers2. Specifically, having the genetic variant which causes the alcohol flush reaction also increases the risk of alcohol related esophageal cancer. Alcohol is also metabolised by microorganisms in the oral cavity, this means that levels of acetaldehyde build-up can be up to 20 times higher in the saliva than in the blood4.

The Solution

Everyone deserves to let their hair down from time to time. As alcohol has become a critical part of human society it seems unfair that some people react differently and could be at much higher risk of a significant health hangover. Alcarelle are using modern science to create an alternative adult beverage which is not metabolised in the same way as alcohol. This adult beverage would not aim to replace alcohol but instead offer an additional option for drinkers to consider when socialising. This means that we can all enjoy a drink that promotes relaxation and conviviality without the red-faced side effects.




1. Yokoyama, A. and Omori, T., 2003. Genetic polymorphisms of alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases and risk for esophageal and head and neck cancers. Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, 33(3), pp.111-121.

2. Rui Li, Zihan Zhao, Mingyang Sun, Jiachi Luo, Yechen Xiao, ALDH2 gene polymorphism in different types of cancers and its clinical significance, Life Sciences, Volume 147, 15 February 2016, Pages 59-66, ISSN 0024-3205,

3. Suddendorf, R. F. (1989). Research on alcohol metabolism among Asians and its implications for understanding causes of alcoholism. Public Health Reports, 104(6), 615–620.

4. Brooks PJ, Enoch M-A, Goldman D, Li T-K, Yokoyama A (2009) The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption

5. Edenberg, H. J. (2007). The Genetics of Alcohol Metabolism: Role of Alcohol Dehydrogenase and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Variants. Alcohol Research & Health, 30(1), 5–13.

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