Friday, February 3, 2017

From Fermented Rice to Mind Altering Corn Beer Researchers Reveal the 9,000 Year Old History of Humans and Alcohol

     I ran across this article the other day and found it to be quite interesting.  Alcohol consumption is not a new thing and I find it very interesting where the early forms of alcoholic beverages originated.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
     The earliest proof of an alcoholic beverage dates back to China 9,000 years ago.   It was a mixed drink of fermented rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and/or grape.  Our primate ancestors first started consuming alcohol via fermented fruit.   Humans have evolved to consume alcohol and we even have a gene that makes it possible for us to digest it faster. 
     Researchers have found that humans have had a long history of consuming alcohol - with the earliest proof of an alcoholic beverage dating back to Northern China 9,000 years ago.   The 'cocktail' was a mixed drink of fermented rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and/or grape.

     A feature in the February issue of the National Geographic magazine traces back the history of alcohol consumption, revealing we even have a gene that makes it possible to digest alcohol faster.  Throughout history, the consumption of alcohol may have helped people become more creative, advancing the development of language, art and religion.   This is because alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people feel more spiritual.   Even the Inca consumed alcohol in the form of chicha - a corn based beer mixed with strawberries that's still consumed today - although the Inca often used mind-altering herbs instead of strawberries.

     All alcoholic drinks are made by yeasts - tiny single-celled life forms that consume sugar and break it down into carbon dioxide and ethanol.   Ethanol is the only type of alcoholic compound that is drinkable - other types, like methanol, are found in windshield washing fluids and de-icers for cars.   There are many different types of yeast, and they've probably been fermenting fruit for 120 million years - when fruits first arose on Earth.

     Many human enjoy drinking alcohol because it makes us feel good - it releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain which reduces anxiety and make us feel happy.   The alcohol smelled strong, which helped them find fruit more easily.  Dr Robert Dudley, a physiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told National Geographic that he call this the 'drunken monkey' hypothesis.   He said: 'If you can smell the alcohol and get to the fruit faster, you have an advantage.'   'You defeat the competition and get more calories,' he said.   He explains that the apes who ate the most were most likely to succeed at reproducing and even experience a slight rush of pleasure in the brain.  Alcohol also has antiseptic properties - deterring infectious microbes that may have made the primates sick.   It can also makes fruit easier to digest, so animals could eat more of them.   Our ape ancestors eventually started eating fermented fruit, and this helped humans adapt to drinking alcohol. 

Read more: