Can Hangovers Be Avoided?

Man drinking in a bar | Image by Freepik

Most adults have heard a trick or two for avoiding hangovers, but are they actually effective?

Research on alcohol consumption suggests that while there may be some tricks to avoiding a nasty morning after an evening out, they may differ from certain age-old remedies.

“There’s so many myths about alcohol use that need to be debunked,” explained Dr. Sarah Andrews, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, according to The New York Times.

While the symptoms and severity of an alcohol-induced hangover might vary from person to person, it is typically characterized by fatigue, thirst, head and muscle aches, nausea, irritability, and increased blood pressure for a day or two. There is no real remedy for a hangover, with experts warning that “a hair of the dog that bit you” is definitely not the answer.

“You’re only going to overwhelm your liver, which is already working overtime,” warned Dr. Kapil Sachdeva, a neurologist from Northwestern Medicine.

Hangover prevention is thus critical. From “Beer before liquor, never been sicker” to “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear,” there are several sayings familiar to most adult drinkers that are meant to act as a guideline for staving off a hangover.

Yet despite these clever rhymes, research into the order in which a person drinks different alcoholic beverages has shown that it does not matter at all.

A German study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2019 aimed to determine whether a hangover could be avoided or lessened by following the conventional wisdom of “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine.”

Three groups of participants were given the same diet and asked to drink specific alcoholic beverages until reaching a 0.11% breath alcohol concentration (BAC). One group drank beer until they reached a BAC of 0.05% before switching to white wine until reaching 0.11% BAC. Another group did the opposite, starting off with white wine until hitting the desired threshold and then finishing off with beer.

Over a week later, the two groups switched their drink sequences. Meanwhile, a third control group drank only white wine until the same BAC threshold during the first trial and drank only beer during the second one. All three groups reported their drunkenness levels and feelings of well-being to researchers both while drinking and the following day.

The results showed that there was no correlation found between the sequence of drinks consumed and the intensity of participants’ hangovers.

While the obvious way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol, Andrews told the NYT that the key is to stay hydrated by alternating rounds with glasses of water and never drinking on an empty stomach.

There are some alcoholic beverages known to produce tougher hangovers than others.

For instance, Emmert Roberts, a senior clinical lecturer in addiction psychiatry at King’s College London, told the NYT that some people might experience stronger hangover symptoms after drinking whiskey or brandy. These darker liquors have higher concentrations of congeners, which are the byproducts of the distillation process.

While these compounds contribute to flavor and aroma, they have also been identified by researchers as potentially inhibiting the body’s breakdown of ethanol, triggering an inflammatory response, and releasing stress hormones.

Sweetened cocktails, as previously reported by The Dallas Express, are also not recommended due to their high sugar content. The fructose syrup can add further strain on the liver as it struggles to remove alcohol from the body.

“As a consequence, we can’t detox as well, and we also end up storing that excess fructose as fat. This can then cause a rise in triglycerides, a harmful blood lipid — and is one of the causes of a fatty liver,” explained Kylie Ivanir, a registered dietician from Within Nutrition, according to Fox News.

The regular consumption of sugar can also contribute to several negative health outcomes, including obesity. Fat also does not absorb alcohol — increasing an obese person’s chance of a hangover as a result of his lower tolerance for alcohol.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that obesity is a growing public health concern in the United States, with 22 states — including Texas — having reached an adult obesity rate of 35% or above.

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