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How doctors saved a man’s life by giving him 15 cans of beer

On Christmas Day last year, 48 year-old Nguyen Van Nhat was taken to a hospital in the Quang Tri province of north-central Vietnam with severe alcohol poisoning.

The levels of methanol in his body were reportedly more than 1,000 times over the recommended limit. The response? The medical staff, led by Dr Le Van Lam, immediately administered three cans of beer – approximately one litre – to the patient.

Over the next 24 hours, a total of 15 cans of beer were transfused into Van Nhat’s body.

Now this method is a little eyebrow-raising, but if sources at NewsWeek are to be trusted, it was this very thing that saved the man’s life.

Apparently the beer was able to slow the rate at which his liver processed the methanol, allowing the doctors to do their thing and efficiently remove all alcohol from his system.

This was possible because of the high levels of ethanol contained in beer. By administering beer to the patient, the process of converting formaldehyde (the toxic compound that methanol converts to in the body) into formic acid (the two substances that are responsible for the effects of methanol poisoning) is halted.

Why? Because apparently the body will always prioritise breaking down ethanol over methanol. This gave the doctors time to extract the alcohol and save Van Nhat’s life.

Simply put – the beer (ethanol) was used as a decoy. While the body was distracted breaking down the ethanol, the doctors were able to implement operation ‘Get Methanol Out’.

Basically they employed the semi-bad criminal to catch the really bad criminal. This story certainly breathes new life into the concept of ‘the lesser of two evils’.

However, just to be clear, we wouldn’t recommend this treatment without medical supervision.

[Feature image by Rawpixel]

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