Skip to main content

How Alcohol Discriminates

 Our biology impacts how we experience and eliminate alcohol. There are several key factors that make a difference, which are listed below. We are primarily talking about female-bodied and male-bodied individuals. Not because alcohol doesn’t impact transgender and intersex individuals differently, but research is quite scarce in these populations.

Non-biological factors that impact blood alcohol content include weight, how much you drink, how fast you drink, medications taken, empty stomach, etc.

Body composition

Even if a male-bodied and female-bodied individual weigh the exact same there would still be differences in alcohol experience related to total body water due to increased lean body mass in male-bodied individuals. Higher body water causes alcohol to be more diluted in the male-bodied individual than the female-bodied individual. On average, male-bodied individuals are 55-65% water whereas female-bodied individuals are 45-55% water.

Enzyme differences

Alcohol dehydrogenase is the primary enzyme that breaks down alcohol. This enzyme is present in both the stomach and the liver, however biological differences only impact the stomach enzyme. Female-bodied individuals have about 25% less stomach enzyme, which means that more of the alcohol consumed is getting into the blood stream in a female-bodied individual.

Hormonal factors

Estrogen has been found to lead to slower alcohol metabolism, therefore leading to a higher blood alcohol content for longer than male-bodied individuals. Estrogen peaks prior to menstruation, so intoxication will last longer during this time. Taking birth control pills or other medicine with estrogen will also have the same impact on intoxication levels.