“A shot of vodka keeps the doctor away” – or so he thinks.

Anjuli Kaur, Biochemistry 3rd Year

“Those ants are attracted to the urine as if it is honey!” said once an intrigued Indian physician many centuries ago, probably not in English. It was possibly one of the first times that Indians described something related to diabetes, a chronic illness that has affected millions of Indians today. Yes, a disease it is, but one that people are able to live with today thanks to prodigious developments in global medical research.

I know a man of Indian ethnicity. At the age of 55 he unsurprisingly suffers from Diabetes mellitus type II. He has been suffering from this chronic illness for more than a decade and has been prescribed an array of medicines that in conjunction result in alternations to the cascade of metabolic reactions within his body. He thinks he has discovered a “new technique” to control his blood glucose levels: vodka.

“Make it neat.”

The World Health Organization has published a set of values from Southeast Asian countries, which claim that Indians are currently the largest population suffering from diabetes amongst their sub-continent. A country that has been booming with an assortment of rich-carbohydrate delicacies along with a lack of awareness about diabetes for a century, go hand in hand to contribute to this illness. It is understood that genetic inheritance, lineage, nutritional diet and certain environmental factors contribute to being indebt to this illness. However popular drugs such as Metformin are being widely used today to reduce the rate of glucose production in the liver. Drugs are such peculiar sweet things. No matter which one you decide to consume you immediately enter into a gamble of statistical probabilities related to your lifestyle and genes, to decide if you will exhibit any major side effects. Most of the time it will work as the doctor wants it to. However up until today a substantial amount of ongoing research has been consumed into uncovering the biochemical fails within the complicated metabolic network of the human body and ways to treat it effectively.

This man, realized that after a small alcoholic beverage his blood glucose levels decreased in the morning. Like an intrigued individual he naturally began to test which concoction after consumption gives a favorable reading on his Accu-Chek machine in the morning; the machine is a small invention produced by the company Accu-Chek, which is in the possession of many diabetic patients used to monitor their blood glucose levels. It is exceptionally user-friendly, allowing you to take a blood sample from yourself that can be emitted into the machine via a fancy strip to quantitatively show the result of your blood glucose level in seconds. Harmless, efficient and mobile. Now for the past year this man has been experimenting with different alcoholic drinks because he feels a small drink before dinner results in the stable blood glucose level of 6.0mmol/L every morning at a fasted state.

Now, for a man with no prior knowledge of biochemistry or experimental methods, his logic has allowed him to control his variables, in this instance the components that make his dinner (consisting mainly of chapattis and a curry) and the small volume of his drink. He has changed his independent variable by the class of his spirit. It is interesting to observe the inquisitive scientist within human beings, by observing their natural tendency to test things by a system which evolution itself has used, the method of trial and error. Somewhat after a year of experimenting, he concluded that a shot of vodka before dinner results in a perfect blood glucose level for him.

The knowledge I have attained within the sciences over the years made me weary of his findings. The body wants to free itself from the consumption of alcohol so fast that the liver diligently begins to metabolize the alcohol immediately; much sooner than it begins to metabolize the carbohydrates in your system. Here is the catch. On an empty stomach, consumption of a large volume of hard liquor such as vodka could potentially cause hypoglycemia, reducing blood glucose levels so low that it could hypothetically send someone in to a coma due to the lack of glucose in the blood available to the brain. But really, who would drink so much, certainly not someone in their mid fifties?

Diabetes may be one of the top chronic illnesses of today’s time, however this man seems to control it sufficiently in his own bizarre way with one shot of vodka a day, so who needs that genetically engineered pancreas?

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