[1251] Maybe alcohol’s not the problem –‘brain snaps’ due to additives (January 2014)

I was sitting at home, reading about 'alcohol-fueled' violence in Sydney, while listening to my seven- and five-year-old having a Category 5 tantrum outside as they recovered from the preservatives and artificial flavourings and colourings they'd been plied with at family holiday functions.

Then I had what may or may not have been a Eureka moment. I'm sure someone has brought this up before, but it could it be that ingredients other than alcohol in beer, wine, spirits and mixed drinks could be at least partly responsible for the so-called 'brain snaps' which have led to recent violent and tragic incidents?.

While I was contemplating this, I was drinking a 100% natural, preservative-free beer. I do this not because I like spending the extra money or think it gives me street cred. I do this because I've had some terrible experiences with some mainstream beer and mixed drink brands. I have had what some might term brain snaps, not leading to any violent behaviour on my part, but certainly reckless in terms of self-harm. I've also had massive headaches and allergic reactions from these drinks and, when I've told other people about this, some have described exactly the same symptoms.

I'm not saying everyone who drinks the same products would have the same reaction, just as preservatives and colourings affect my kids more so than others we know, who can scoff every candy cane on the Christmas tree and still remain so placid and angelic, perhaps they should be used to decorate the top of it.

I'm also not saying that alcohol should be disregarded. Even if other ingredients are only a factor, the alcohol obviously lowers inhibitions and reduces the ability of adults to moderate altered moods and feelings of unease - bringing them back to the unfiltered child-like state of my two, who don't have the skills or the desire to curb their tantrums and will start fighting, sometimes physically. Or it could be the interaction of these alcohol and these chemicals creating an altogether different situation. I'm no scientist so that's just speculation.

Then there is the question of what impact the snack foods being eaten with the alcoholic drinks might have. And this is before we even bring in other factors like caffeinated alcoholic beverages, other drugs, the ingredients of high-protein dietary supplements and steroids.

Or perhaps I'm completely wrong and it's just a coincidence that I'm blowing out of all proportion. However, I'm thinking if they're serious about doing something to reduce these violent incidents, they would be as keen as anyone to ensure they're targeting the right ingredients and that the right approach is taken. – Michael, NSW

Sue’s comment: While we certainly agree that additives in drinks, mixers, snacks and fast foods can contribute to temper outbursts and removing them would be a giant step in the right direction, this particular issue is complicated by the fact that all alcoholic drinks except gin, vodka and whisky are very high in natural salicylates, amines and glutamates. I can't see the general public wanting to embrace a message that says "drink only gin, vodka and whisky - and don't mix your vodka with tomato or fruit juice" although for a certain proportion of the population - possibly the ones in the news – this could make a huge difference. It would be good to see more awareness about food intolerance at an earlier age so that people know what affects them long before they get to legal drinking age.

See also story [304] "Last weekend I assaulted my wife and did horrific damage to her face ...  I had been drinking most of the afternoon, then consumed two strawberry sundae tubs of icecream ..." Was it artificial colours or the very high salicylates in strawberry flavouring or both? We don't know, but this story illustrates what Michael says, that a combination of alcohol plus food intolerance could be potentially lethal read more.