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Does gender affect BAC?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

attractive woman passing out from alcohol
Gender does affect BAC, or blood alcohol concentration

Gender does affect BAC, or blood alcohol concentration. Women will reach a higher BAC than men if the two genders consume alcohol at a similar rate.

There are three main reasons why a female will reach a higher BAC than a male. These are:

  1. women have lower water content in their bodies than men,
  2. females tend to have more body fat than males, and
  3. the enzyme that absorbs alcohol in the body is less widespread in women than it is in men.

Other factors that may affect a party's blood alcohol concentration include:

  • age,
  • food,
  • rate of consumption,
  • weight, and
  • stress.

BAC is the measure of the amount of alcohol in someone's bloodstream. Blood alcohol concentration is expressed as a percentage – for instance .08%. The higher the number, the more alcohol there is in a person's bloodstream.

California's “legal limit” for BAC depends on the driver's age and the type of vehicle driven. A common legal limit that leads to a “DUI per se “charge in California is .08% for adult drivers (of non-commercial vehicles).

Does gender affect BAC?

Gender does affect blood alcohol concentration. Women will reach a higher BAC than men if the two genders consume alcohol at a similar rate.

There are three main reasons why this happens. These are:

  1. women have lower water content in their bodies than men,
  2. females tend to have more body fat than males, and
  3. the enzyme that absorbs alcohol in the body is less widespread in women than it is in men.

As to the first reason, note that alcohol is highly water soluble. “Water soluble” means something dissolves in water. The more water, the faster a liquid will dissolve. Since women generally have lower water content in their bodies than men, any alcohol in their bodies will dissolve slower – leading to a greater BAC.

As to the second reason, fatty tissue is low in water content and cannot absorb alcohol well. When a person has a high percentage of body fat, little alcohol will get absorbed and it will remain in the person's bloodstream until the liver can break it down. Because women tend to have more body fat than men, more alcohol will remain in their bloodstream and this will produce a higher BAC.

As to the third reason, note that dehydrogenase is the enzyme that absorbs alcohol. This enzyme is less prevalent in women than in men. With greater levels of dehydrogenases, guys can absorb alcohol faster than women. Faster absorption means lower blood alcohol concentration levels.

What are some other factors that may affect a person's BAC levels?

Several factors can affect a person's BAC levels when drinking. Some of the more popular include:

  • age – as age increases, the intoxicating effects of alcohol become more pronounced.
  • eating – eating before, or during the course of drinking, slows the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into a person's body. This decrease in absorption means less alcohol enters the bloodstream, as compared to the situation when no food is eaten. Less alcohol entering the bloodstream results in a lower blood alcohol concentration.
  • rate of consumption – the faster a person drinks alcohol means the quicker his/her BAC will rise.
  • weight – an increase in weight usually means that a person can drink more without a drastic rise in BAC levels.
  • stress – this can actually lower the rate of alcohol absorption into a person's body. This means a lower BAC. Thus, stress can actually have a lowering effect on a drinker's blood alcohol concentration level.

What exactly is blood alcohol concentration?

BAC is the measure of the amount of alcohol in someone's bloodstream. BAC is commonly used to try to establish whether someone is driving under the influence. Blood alcohol concentration is expressed as a percentage – for instance .08%. The higher the number, the more alcohol there is in a person's bloodstream.

Does BAC indicate whether someone is drunk?

Blood alcohol content does not, by itself, determine whether someone's driving will be impaired by alcohol. Some people may be impaired at a relatively low percentage, while others may be able to drive safely with a relatively high BAC.

But regardless of actual impairment, drivers may not lawfully drive in California once their BAC exceeds a certain level. This amount is sometimes referred to as California's “legal limit” for alcohol--also known as the “per se” DUI limit.

What is California's per se “legal limit” for blood alcohol?

California's “legal limit” for BAC depends on the driver's age and the type of vehicle driven. Common legal limits that lead to “DUI per se “charges in California include:

  • adult drivers (non-commercial vehicles): .08%.
  • commercial drivers: .04%.
  • taxi, limo, and ride-sharing drivers: .04%.
  • underage drivers: .05%.

Can someone be under the influence with a BAC below California's “legal limit”?

Someone can be found guilty of driving under the influence even if his or her blood alcohol concentration is under the “legal limit.” A person is considered to be under the influence (regardless of BAC) anytime that:

  1. due to the influence of alcohol and/or drugs,
  2. that person can no longer drive as well as a cautious sober person under similar circumstances.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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