Más Cervezas, Por Favor

By Dirk Hanson 04/15/11

Fruit flies can't hold their liquor when things heat up.

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Drink slower when it's hot outside.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

As countless throngs of spring break tourists have learned the hard way after a few cervezas in Cozumel, a cold beer on a hot day gives you more of a buzz than a cold beer on a chilly day. It’s not just perception—our humble research friend the fruit fly get drunk faster in hot weather, too. Research shows that fly populations in higher, cooler latitudes can really hold their rotten fruit, compared to their tropical cousins. High temperatures decrease the rigidity of cell membranes, and slow the activity of the primary enzyme involved in breaking down booze in the body. So, in hot weather, alcohol lingers longer, and gets you drunker. Geneticist Kristi Montooth and colleagues at Brown University compared the alcohol intake of Australian fruit flies, who prefer a balmy 80 degrees F, with a strain of Tasmanian fruit flies adapted to life at 59 degrees F. No contest. And let’s face it, Aussies do have a reputation for sudsy indulgence. Maybe they just can’t hold their liquor. Now they can blame it on the sun.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]