Segments in this Video

Alcohol Mysteries (02:22)


With UK drinking guidelines under review, identical twins and doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken will investigate the effects of moderate and binge drinking on their hearts, livers, and blood.

Alcohol Experiment (02:17)

Xand and Chris will investigate how drinking patterns affect the body. Health authorities say that men shouldn't drink more than 4 units daily. Chris will drink 3 units daily and Xand will drink 21 units in one night, once a week.

British Drinking Culture (01:34)

UK citizens discuss why they consume alcohol. It isn't fat soluble, so the daily recommendation is less for women than men—but guidelines differ by country. Evidence that moderate daily drinking is healthy is being questioned.

Baseline Health Tests (03:36)

Chris and Xand have been sober for a month. They get blood drawn for inflammation markers and a fibroscan for liver pliability. Their small sample size doesn't qualify as a scientific study but as genetically identical twins, they’ll test new alcohol consumption evidence.

Metabolizing Alcohol (02:07)

Ethanol provides the alcohol "buzz." Xand and Chris will drink the same amount of vodka weekly—but Chris will drink three shots daily and Xand will drink 21 shots in an evening. Alcohol enters the blood from the small intestine, and is broken down in the liver.

Alcohol and Heart Function (02:54)

Many believe dehydration causes hangovers; Chris and Xand will drink equal liquid amounts and measure their urine. Alcohol dilates blood vessels and the heart beats faster to keep oxygen flowing. An ultrasound reveals Xand's heart working faster in accordance with higher consumption.

Alcohol Diuretic Theory (02:17)

After 9 vodka shots, Xand urinates slightly more than Chris, who has had 3—but they'll compare final volumes the next day. Heavily impaired, he uses a wrist device to measure his BAC. He feels ill after consuming his 21 unit quota.

Hangover Challenges (02:28)

UK citizens describe how they feel the morning after binge drinking. Ethanol blocks neurotransmitter activity and memory formation; Xand can't remember much after 21 shots. Chris shows him videos of his behavior.

Alcohol and Hydration Levels (02:31)

A graph shows Xand was dangerously drunk after 21 shots; his BAC peaked while sleeping. He feels dehydrated but has urinated the same amount as Chris—evidence supported by blood plasma tests

Genetics and Alcohol (03:27)

Inflammation occurring during binge drinking can mimic cold symptoms. East Asian volunteers describe sleepiness, flushed skin, and bad hangovers while a European volunteer reports no hangovers. Genes determine enzymes that metabolize alcohol; 65% of East Asians metabolize more slowly.

Alcohol Toxicity (02:19)

Metabolism byproduct acetaldehyde causes hangovers in some individuals. Those who drink excessively can trigger an alternative pathway directly from the gut to the liver—but the breakdown causes damage. Xand suffers after drinking 21 shots for a health experiment.

Liver Regeneration (03:03)

Xand believes he can bounce back from binge drinking due to the liver's ability to regrow within weeks. Portions of healthy livers can be removed and donated in transplants. However, repeated alcohol abuse can cause scarring and lead to cirrhosis.

Binge Drinking Strategy Change (02:30)

Xand spreads 21 alcohol units over 12 hours rather than 4 hours. The Department of Health defines a binge as more than the equivalent of 2 large glasses of wine or beer for women and 3 for men. Alcohol can also be addictive.

Daily Drinking Health Study (03:14)

In 2011, a study looked at the effect of alcohol on mice genetically engineered to resemble men between 50 and 60. Moderate drinking lowered their heart attack and stroke risk by decreasing blood vessel plaque, while binge drinking increased plaque buildup.

Heart Disease and Drinking Patterns (02:19)

A study showed daily moderate drinking had heart benefits in mice, while binge drinking increased blood vessel plaque. Alcohol prevents immune cells from sticking to vessels, while acetaldehyde promotes stickiness. Acetaldehyde may be responsible for hangovers.

Binge Drinking Experiment Liver Results (02:05)

Chris has consumed 3 units daily, while Xand has consumed 21 units once a week for four weeks. Their liver stiffness and inflammation have both increased by 25%, a precursor to fibrosis and disease.

Binge Drinking Experiment Inflammation Results (02:44)

Inflammatory markers called cytokines register systemic inflammation. TNF-A are released by the body to signal infection or injury; both Xand and Chris have elevated levels after drinking for four weeks.

Binge Drinking and Endotoxins (03:23)

Acetaldehyde from excessive alcohol consumption damages the gut lining, releasing gut bacteria to the bloodstream and triggering an autoimmune response. Inflammatory cytokines are released to fight the "infection." However, moderate daily drinking can also lead to cirrhosis; experts recommend lowering the sensible drinking limit.

Rethinking Safe Alcohol Limits (02:05)

The UK drinking guidelines are under review, but citizens will continue their habits. After a month long experiment, Chris and Xand have evidence that both moderate and binge drinking are damaging to their health.

Credits: Is Binge Drinking Really That Bad? (00:39)

Credits: Is Binge Drinking Really That Bad?

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Is Binge Drinking Really That Bad?

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Is occasional binge drinking that much worse than drinking small amounts of alcohol each day? Considering it is a drug that has been enjoyed since the dawn of civilization, the science around alcohol is surprisingly vague and conflicting. Doctors and genetically identical twins Chris and Xand van Tulleken investigate the latest science and put their own bodies to the test to see how alcohol really affects us. You'll never look at a night out, or your hangover, in the same way again. A BBC Production.

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: BVL95124

ISBN: 978-1-68272-317-3

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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