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ETH Zurich develops new gel that reduces harmful effects of alcohol

ETH Zurich develops new gel that reduces harmful effects of alcohol

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed an edible gel that reduces the harmful effects of alcohol on the body. The protein-based gel keeps blood alcohol levels low, ultimately reducing the inebriating effects of drinking while also preventing hangovers. 

Gel by ETH Zurich reduces alcohol-induced organ damage

When alcohol is consumed, it enters the bloodstream through mucous membranes in the stomach and intestines, where it is then transported to the liver. In the liver, alcohol is broken down into acetic acid and the toxic by-product, acetaldehyde, which causes symptoms associated with hangovers, as well as organ damage. 

The gel product created by the researchers at ETH Zurich contains whey protein, glucose, iron and gold to trigger various reactions that metabolise the alcohol into acetic acid without the harmful byproduct. This occurs in the digestive tract before entering the bloodstream. 

After testing the new invention on mice that were given alcohol over multiple days, the researchers found that the mice that consumed the gel experienced less weight loss and less damage to the liver, spleen, intestines and other body tissues. Blood alcohol levels in mice that were given the gel before alcohol consumption dropped by 40 percent 30 minutes after having alcohol, and as much as 56 percent after five hours. 

Is new protein gel a solution for alcohol abuse?

Having even small amounts of alcohol has been shown to impair concentration and reaction times in people, increasing the chances of accidents and injury. Frequent use and ingesting large quantities of alcohol have also been proven to increase the risks of developing health issues such as liver disease and cancer. While people in Switzerland are drinking less beer, figures from the World Health Organisation show that around 3 million people around the world die every year from consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. 

While more clinical studies are necessary before the product can be used by humans, the new gel developed by the university in Zurich could be a solution to this global problem. Taking the gel orally before or during a night of drinking would prevent a sharp increase in blood alcohol and reduce harmful effects on the body. The gel is not effective once an individual already has alcohol poisoning as it can only react with alcohol that is still in the stomach or intestines. 

It also does not reduce alcohol consumption in general. “It’s healthier not to drink alcohol at all. However, the gel could be of particular interest to people who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, but don’t want to put a strain on their bodies and aren’t actively seeking the effects of alcohol,” explained Professor Raffaele Mezzenga, one of the researchers on the project at the university.  

Simone Jacobs

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Simone Jacobs

Simone is originally from South Africa, where she studied Genetics and Zoology. She enjoys reading, hiking and animal training.

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