The First Food Designed to Keep You Sober
Have you ever been to a wedding where you’re the last table to be served dinner?
There’s a whole lot of cheers and clinks, but nothing much in the stomach. Suddenly, you’re too tipsy.
That’s where a new protein bar, aptly named SOBAR, plans to intervene. The makers of SOBAR claim it’s the first food specifically engineered to reduce alcohol’s intoxicating effects.
Don’t believe it?
Well, let’s begin by following alcohol’s path through the body.
As soon as you sip on some alcohol, a small amount of it passes through the lining of your mouth and directly enters the bloodstream. However, most will continue along the digestive tract, down your esophagus, and into the stomach.
Once in the stomach, alcohol can be treated in several different ways. Some is destroyed by the stomach’s strong acid and enzymes. Another portion is slowly absorbed through the stomach wall into the bloodstream. What’s remaining will be released from the stomach into the small intestine.
Once alcohol hits our small intestine, it’s party time! Here alcohol is rapidly absorbed into our bloodstream. This is also where most of our nutrients from food and many types of drugs enter our system.
That’s because the small intestine contains villi, these are finger-like projections which help to increase the surface area of the intestines. The increased surface area provides plenty of opportunity for chemicals, like ethanol to enter the bloodstream.
Any alcohol that has entered the bloodstream through either the small intestine or stomach is heading towards the liver. This is the main organ that inactivates alcohol and destroys its intoxicating effect.
The problem is, the liver can only inactivate a certain amount of alcohol as it passes through. This means if a large amount of alcohol is consumed, some makes it through the liver, continues in the bloodstream, and is circulated throughout the entire body.
Know where the most dangerous place for alcohol to get to is?
While riding through our bloodstream, some alcohol makes the journey up to our head. Here, alcohol can cross the blood-brain barrier and its intoxicating effects begin to set it.
The bloodstream continues to circulate alcohol throughout the body, until it again reaches the liver. This time the liver destroys another portion of the alcohol and anything remaining will again be cycled throughout the body via the circulatory system.
This cycle continues until the liver has successfully inactivated all alcohol in your system. As more and more alcohol is destroyed, the body begins to sober up.
OK. But, how would food reduce this intoxicating effect?
If you drink, you’re probably familiar with how drastically different it feels to consume alcohol on an empty versus full stomach.
When you’ve skipped a meal, it feels like the alcohol bolts right to your head. Conversely, eating before drinking seems to reduce alcohol’s grip.
The main difference is, with food in your belly, the stomach must take time to digest and breakdown the matter before passing it along to the small intestine. Now remember, the stomach is a site of slow absorption of alcohol, so no harm done.
Actually, holding up alcohol in the stomach has a couple of advantages.
First, it allows for longer periods of time for enzymes present in the stomach to deactivate alcohol. This means less is available to make you drunk.
Second, it delays how quickly your stomach passes alcohol onto the small intestine. Essentially, food diminishes how rapidly alcohol gets to its site of maximal absorption — the small intestine.
A lower transfer rate of alcohol into the small intestine also implies a lesser amount run through the liver at any given time. This means the liver can more effectively destroy the alcohol and prevent it from further circulating throughout the bloodstream.
Even the type of food you eat before drinking can alter the rate of gastric emptying.
Studies have shown that anything from the amount of food, whether it’s solid or liquid, its pH, and nutrient composition can alter how fast or slow the stomach will empty into the small intestine. Even specific ingredients like milk proteins, fiber, and polysaccharides have been seen to result in greater delays of stomach emptying.
So, how does SOBAR keep you sober?
The makers of SOBAR claim that their new, high protein bar is specially formulated to include a unique combination of ingredients that help hold food in your stomach longer than average, since eating any type of food would delay gastric emptying.
By checking out their ingredient statement, I’d guess they did this by including 20 grams of protein, mostly from whey and casein, the two main proteins in milk. The formulation also contains insoluble oat fiber, which is another likely culprit to slow the transfer of contents from the stomach to the small intestine.
Does this sound too good to be true?
Well, SOBAR actually held clinical trials to prove their hypothesis that the protein bar was optimized to delay alcohol transmission from the stomach into the small intestine.
Here, participants that were fed SOBAR prototypes (~200 calories) 5 minutes before imbibing a double cocktail experienced lower blood alcohol concentrations, with an average reduction of over 50%, than those given no food or 200 calories of trail mix.
Participants that were fed a full meal (~600 calories) before downing a double cocktail had almost an equivalent reduction of BAC to those that ate a SOBAR. This is pretty impressive considering on a per calories basis, the novel protein bar had a significantly greater effect.
The key is to consume SOBAR about 5–15 minutes before drinking. Eating the protein bar after taking shots won’t help you much. This simply stems from the fact that having food in your stomach before drinking slows how quickly the alcohol is transferred into your small intestine.
A few warnings before you go let loose with a SOBAR and a couple of your favorite beverages. SOBAR cannot sober you up if you’re already drunk. It’s crucial to eat the bar before drinking alcohol to get the positive effects.
And just a reminder, drinking an excessive amount even after eating a SOBAR, or under any conditions, isn’t safe. The protein bar can only slow alcohol absorption so much.
In the end, it seems SOBAR has successfully exploited the science of digestion to reduce the effects of alcohol. If you’re curious and want to test out SOBAR, the product is currently sold online in three different flavors: white chocolate almond, honey peanut, and caramel macchiato.