Scientists have tested the old Danish myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging your feet in alcohol. Their results, indicate that unfortunately a Fosters footbath is unlikely to become the new way to consume your drinks.
The selfless scientists from the Department of Cardiology at Hillerød Hospital became the test subjects (Figure 1), declaring themselves ‘free of chronic skin and liver disease and non-dependent on alcohol and psychoactive drugs’. The really interesting thing about this study, besides the just plain weirdness of the question being asked, is the methodology. The researchers abstained from alcohol for 24 Hrs prior to the study and also each cleaned their feet with a loofah the night before testing began.
In the study itself the researchers submerged their feet in washing bowls containing three 700mL bottles of vodka (37.5% by volume). They then recorded the level of drunkenness using the concentration of plasma ethanol and a more interesting secondary outcome for 3 hours ‘a timeframe corresponding to a medium length visit to the local pub’. This method contains my Research Quote of The Week:
“The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self-confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs)”
The results of the blood plasma ethanol levels were all below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L and the secondary outcome results (Figure 2) were deemed not significant. Although they did observe that after the experiment the skin on the researchers feet was ‘clean and smooth’.
This study obviously does have its weaknesses. There was no control group, only 3 participants and clearly isn’t the most revolutionary discovery science has ever made. But, I do think this research is important, if only because it shows that scientists aren’t stuffy and boring and that they do have a sense of humour. A point highlighted by the conclusion to their paper:
‘New pastimes, such as “eyeball drinking,” have emerged. The significance of this activity is unknown. Rumour has it that it makes you drunk fast . . . and may damage your eyes’
Hansen CS, Faerch LH, & Kristensen PL (2010). Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 341 PMID: 21156749