St. Patrick’s Day health concerns

Rachel Sluss

Each St. Patrick’s Day, the city of Kent becomes a sea of green as students and residents flock to the bars as early as 5 a.m. to partake in the holiday’s festivities.

Some will set out this weekend to celebrate and commemorate the patron saint of Ireland by drinking loads of green beer. Many will continue bar or party hopping throughout the day.

As with many holidays, some consider March 17 an excuse to drink more than usual. While celebrating can be fun, drinking from sunrise to sunset can have negative consequences on one’s health.

“The liver can only process approximately one drink an hour to remove alcohol from the blood stream,” health educator Sharon Briggs said. “If an individual is consuming more than one drink an hour, the body cannot keep up, and the BAC will continue to rise.”

Briggs said consistent drinking throughout the day and night can be dangerous due to many factors.

A body absorbs alcohol without digestion, so it is instead absorbed directly into the blood stream through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. This causes alcohol to reach the brain within minutes.

“The process continues as long as the person is consuming alcohol,” Briggs said.

Deric Kenne, Ph.D., assistant professor of health policy and management, said research has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol can have certain health benefits, but the binge drinking some students do while going out or partying is what can cause problems.

“Binge drinking, even once a week, can have negative health impacts and can result in serious consequences for some people,” Kenne said. “It can be especially difficult to reason with someone who has been drinking, and thus difficult to keep that person from engaging in risky behaviors because of intoxication.”

Drinking from morning to night can have negative consequences on a person’s health and wellbeing, but many may also be concerned with the affects of dyeing beer different colors.

Kenne said food coloring in beer will not necessarily harm the body since the dye can be found in many other food or beverage items people consume regularly.

“Assuming that the green color is the result of an edible dye, I don’t think the health effects would be any worse than consuming other foods or beverages that have dyes in them,” Kenne said. “The alcohol is much more likely to have negative effects for the individual.”

Zephyr Pub and Ray’s Place are two bars downtown that will open their doors early on Sunday and serve green beer. Adding a few drops of regular food coloring into the drink changes the beer’s color.

Joel McAdams, bartender at Zephyr Pub, said the bar makes its own green beer on the spot.

“We use a little bit of food coloring either beer by beer or pitcher by pitcher,” McAdams said.

McAdams said the bar will turn any kind of beer green, if requested, but it’s most commonly done with the bar’s beer of the month, which is currently Miller Lite.

Mike D’Alessandro, Ray’s Place manager, said Ray’s will open at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Irish dishes will be served along with green beer. Bartenders will put a few drops of food coloring in individual glasses of beer or liquor.

“[Bartenders will] do it with darker beer, but it’s not as transparent, so it only really shows at the head of the beer,” D’Alessandro said.

Health sciences lecturer Tanya Falcone said while the green dye in beer doesn’t have any long-term health effects, food coloring, in general, is not exactly healthy for the human body.

“It’s negative because it’s processed,” Falcone said. “Anything processed is not good for the body, but food coloring doesn’t have a specific action. It wouldn’t do any type of long-term damage.”

Falcone said eating food and drinking water while consuming beer — dyed green or not — can help dilute the alcohol.

“Beer, in moderation, is not the end of the world,” Falcone said. “The best thing to do is have a beer, then a water.”

Many bars will serve “kegs and eggs” when they open Sunday morning. While eggs will help absorb some of the alcohol, Falcone said high-carb and high-fat foods will help stop nausea the next day.

“This food doesn’t absorb anything, it just stops the nausea,” Falcone said. “Make sure you eat and drink a lot of water, even before going to bed. Headaches have to do with dehydration. Staying hydrated is one of the most important parts.”

While drinking a few glasses of green beer in moderation won’t necessarily have severe consequences on a person’s health, the real concern is drinking too much in a short amount of time.

R. Scott Olds, interim chair for the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said some students do not self-regulate well. Some drink too fast and too much, and often times they do not eat enough.

“There are certain expectations around drinking,” Olds said. “Some people think it makes them feel more comfortable or sociable. The expectancy is reinforced by peers and the media.”

Briggs said rapid consumption of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, and being aware of alcohol poisoning symptoms is important. Those who are around people who are drinking should watch out for:

•Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin

•Irregular or slow breathing

•Whether the person can be awakened or not

•If the person vomited while passed out

“Taking action when alcohol poisoning is present or suspected is very important,” Briggs said. “Do not leave the person alone. Call 911.”

Contact Rachel Sluss at [email protected] .