A staple of the Cinco de Mayo celebration of Mexican heritage and pride is tequila. The humorists note the agave beverage's side effects as a desire to fight in order to show off your new-found super-human strength, unexplained urges to pole dance, increased risk of your clothes falling off and discovery of a new apartment (because you don't wake up in yours). The drinking humor aside, here are five not-so-funny tequila facts.
1. Darker alcoholic beverages (e.g. red wine, brandy, whiskey and tequila) may contain chemicals called congeners -- kind of like impurities. Congeners give a liquor most of its taste or odor, and contribute to or worsen hangovers. These substances include small amounts of chemical by-products of fermentation, such as acetone. Look on a bottle of nail polish remover for another use for acetone. (Here are cinco myths I've posted about hangovers.)
2. Urban legend spins a research study into health benefits of drinking tequila. Science does not back up any health benefit. In 2007, Mexican researchers found the agave plant – the key ingredient in tequila – has a high level of inulin, which is credited with helping digestion, reducing cholesterol and retaining more calcium in the body. (Inulin is not to be confused with insulin.) Guillermo Toriz, a researcher at the University of Guadalajara, notes, "Inulin is very good to the digestive system because it helps you to grow good bacteria." That is the good news for the agave PLANT. Toriz says all of the health benefits found in the plant that produces it are lost when it's fermented to make alcohol. It's one of those "wishful thinking" attributes drinkers try to pin on alcohol use I mentioned April 12.
3. An open clinical trial was carried out in 2004 on eight healthy non-obese, young male volunteers who were given tequila, one shot daily. The tequila-specific study found a significant increase in their glucose concentration. This can lead to prediabetes: When a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. It is a potentially dangerous health condition leading to type 2 diabetes.
4. A single margarita can carry half of the daily calorie requirement (see related article). Tequila consists of more calories than vodka, rum and whiskey. That's before the margarita mix. One mix claiming “all natural flavors” listed it's main ingredients as high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sugar, corn starch, etc., totaling 30 grams of sugars and 33 grams of carbs per 4 ounces. . . and who has seen a small margarita on Cinco de Mayo?
5. Cinco de Mayo has become one of the biggest drinking holidays in the United States, and one of the deadliest. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011 — the latest year for which statistics were available — 35 percent of crash fatalities that occurred on May 5 were alcohol-related.
These health and safety risk are above and beyond the troubles of alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism. With the holiday, any holiday, drinkers can and do find a way to drink. Many are able to drink responsibly, which doesn't necessary mean "risk free."
Scroll down for the replay of the April 13 Sound Health Options show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore." Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud can be found on www.alcohologist.com, plus an interview with Scott Stevens on Health Media Now and one at Christoph Fisher Books. Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.