Sure, we all know that at the end of the day, a cold beer can be the key to happiness. But it turns out, you might not necessariuly have to drink the whole thing in order to achieve that effect.
See also: - 24 Legitimately Fascinating Facts About Beer
A study published yesterday in the the journal Neuropsychopharmacology has shown that you don't actually need to get drunk in order to trigger a release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. A group of researchers led by David Kareken of Indiana University found that even a tiny amount of beer -- as in, not nearly enough to cause intoxication -- can cause changes in brain chemistry.
Scientists chose 49 male participants (average age 25) with varying levels of typical alcohol consumption and family history of alcoholism. They gave each a small taste of both beer and, as controls, water or Gatorade. They used an automated system to spray about a half an ounce of beer on the participants tongue to ensure the subjects didn't get intoxicated.
The results showed that just the taste of beer -- that lovely combination of hops and malt -- significantly affected brain chemistry within minutes. When the men tasted beer it triggered a release of higher levels of dopamine, as in the chemical associated with sleep, sex and other drugs.
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The level released however, wasn't random. Based on surveys filled out by the participants, those with a family history of alcoholism were much more affected by the taste of beer. Even compared to those who would be considered heavy drinkers. Researchers say this could be a key to understanding why some people struggle so much with addiction.
If you're curious for some more information about how alcohol affects the brain, check out this great video. It explains why it's considered a "depressant" because it suppresses neural activity but also causes extreme focus on certain thoughts.