Does mixing drinks make a hangover worse?
New study debunks ‘beer before wine’ mantra
Drinkers are reeling after a new study about hangovers disproved the age-old theory that drinking beer before wine lessens the morning-after pain.
A total of 90 volunteers were recruited by British and German researchers who wanted to examine the “influence of the combination and order of beer and wine consumption on hangover intensity”.
“Everyone knows the saying, ‘beer before wine and you’ll feel fine, wine before beer and you’ll feel queer’,” said Kai Hensel, a senior clinical fellow at Cambridge University who led the research. “We thought there must be something in it, how can we test it?”
The scientists’ solution was to split the volunteers, between the ages of 19 and 40, into three groups and then ply them with alcohol.
Under strictly controlled lab conditions, the first group drank roughly two-and-a-half pints of beer and then four large glasses of white wine. The second group consumed the same drinks but in reverse order. Volunteers in the third group had either only beer or only wine, up to the same breath alcohol concentration.
The following day they were all tested on an “acute hangover scale”. The tests were then repeated the next week so that every participant could experience beer then wine or vice versa, or switch between just beer or just wine.
The drinkers “reeled off a rich list of hangover symptoms and about one in ten threw up”, says The Guardian. But the results, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that the order in which the drinks were consumed had no impact on “hangover intensity”.
“Using white wine and lager beer, we didn’t find any truth in the idea that drinking beer before wine gives you a milder hangover than the other way around,” said study co-author Joran Kochling, from Germany’s Witten/Herdecke University.
“The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover.”
The boozy experiment is just one of a number in recent years that have attempted to solve the enigma of hangovers, or veisalgia, to use the medical term.
Why do we get hangovers?
Scientists aren’t sure exactly why we get them, but they have a few ideas. “Addiction specialists have often noted that a hangover is technically a form of alcohol withdrawal at its most benign,” Laura Veach, a counselor and professor of surgery at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University, told The New York Times.
Usually, “hangovers start when the alcohol in our bloodstream begins to decrease, and hit their peak when we’ve reached zero”, adds news site Quartz.
The first of the two main factors that affect the severity of a drink’s after-effects is obvious. The “higher the alcohol content, and the faster you drink it, the worse the hangover”, says the BBC’s Claudia Hammond.
Along with the ethanol that triggers intoxication, the other key chemicals in alcohol that appear to worsen hangovers are what experts call congeners. These are substances “produced during fermentation which give darker drinks their colour and part of their flavour”, says Hammond. Bourbon whisky, for example, typically contains 37 times as many congeners as vodka.
Does mixing drinks worsen the after-effects?
Mixing drinks “might not be a good idea as it reduces the likelihood you’re able to keep track of how many standard drinks you've consumed”, writes Stephen Bright, a senior lecturer in addiction at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, in an article on The Conversation.
However, in and of itself, mixing drinks “will not make a hangover worse”, says the BBC’s Hammond.
But “given that not all drinks are created equal - a shot of tequila goes down a lot faster than a pint of beer, even though both have roughly the same alcohol content - it’s possible that consuming a variety of different drinks may result in consuming more booze overall”, notes Bustle.
And that means more suffering once your sober up.