Blood Alcohol Content

consumption of alcoholic beverages results in the absorption into the bloodstream of ALCOHOL (etha-nol, also called ethyl alcohol) from the stomach and small intestine. The amount of alcohol distributed in the blood is termed blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and is proportional to the quantity of etha-nol consumed. It is expressed as the weight of alcohol in a fixed volume of blood, for example, grams per liter (g/l) or milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). The measurement of blood alcohol concentrations has both clinical and legal applications.

Consuming food with alcohol generally decreases the amount of alcohol that can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Consuming more than one drink per hour causes the BAC to increase rapidly, because it is exceeding the rate at which the body can metabolize alcohol. The percentage of body fat that contributes to a person's total weight also affects BAC. A larger proportion of fat provides less body water into which the alcohol can distribute, thus increasing BAC. For this reason, women generally have a higher BAC for a given number of drinks when compared to men.

(SEE ALSO: Blood Alcohol Concentration, Measures of)


Fisher, H., Simpson, R., & Kapur, B. (1987). Calculation of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by sex, weight, number of drinks and time. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 78, 300-304.

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