Even the most ardent craft beer buff or wine connoisseur would have trouble arguing that alcohol doesn’t have its downsides — but that might not be the case for long.
For more than a decade, according to The Guardian, scientist David Nutt had been developing a synthetic alcohol substitute he calls Alcarelle. He claims his creation has the potential to allow drinkers to enjoy all the benefits of alcohol and none of the drawbacks — meaning it could bring an end to everything from hangovers to alcohol-related cancers.
An alcoholic beverage can be a relatively harmless way to loosen up at a party or wind down after a long day at work, but maintaining a pleasant buzz without getting wasted can require careful calculation. Throw back one too many cocktails, and you might find yourself doing something you’ll regret while under the influence.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to debilitating hangovers in the short term, and everything from heart disease to various cancers in the long term — and that’s not even taking into account the possibility you’ll develop an alcohol addiction.
Nutt believes he can design his synthetic alcohol molecule to interact with the body in a way that avoids negative side effects.
“We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate and other ones, such as serotonin and dopamine,” Nutt told The Guardian. “The effects of alcohol are complicated but…you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”
He’s now working to give his synthetic alcohol molecule a “peak effect” that would prevent a drinker from ever crossing the line from buzzed to wasted. He’s also designing it to lack any toxicity, thereby preventing health issues.
“And of course we don’t want hangovers,” he told The Guardian.
The ultimate goal is to manufacture Alcarelle and then sell it to beverage companies so they can add it to their drinks.
Three years ago, Nutt founded the Alcarelle startup to help make that vision a reality, and the company’s managing director David Orren recently told the Irish Examiner that it might be able to wrap up all the necessary safety testing and regulatory requirements within five years.
If Nutt and his colleagues can perfect their synthetic alcohol substitute, global drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth thinks there’s a solid chance the alcohol industry could actually embrace the product rather than see it as new competition.
“The industry is increasingly investing in alcohol alternatives,” he told The Guardian, later adding, “If the science is right, and if it’s easy to mask the taste, I think it’s got a great chance.”
READ MORE: Could ‘alcosynth’ provide all the joy of booze – without the dangers? [The Guardian]
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