Ethanol, found in most alcoholic drinks, is toxic so how do we survive a night out at the bar? Our body uses the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to convert ethanol to a different substance, acetaldehyde, which in turn is converted to acetic acid which is used as an energy source for the body. This reaction takes place in different parts of the body but mainly the liver and the stomach.
Alcohol dehydrogenase makes use of two molecular methods to perform this reaction with ethanol. The first is a zinc atom, which is used to position and hold the ethanol’s alcohol group. The second is a large NAD cofactor (formed using the vitamin niacin) which actually performs the reaction.