The truth about booze myths: does gin make you emotional, and are beer goggles real?
8 FEBRUARY 2019
Isn’t advice about alcohol all too often misguided? I remember one morning after the night before, when the host of a 30th birthday party came in carrying four bottles of prosecco. He implored his housemates that it was “hair of the dog: the only hangover cure that works.” For the few disciples who followed him into the breach, four bottles soon turned to eight, then a pub, and karaoke. With Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline ringing in their ears the following morning as the cold hard reality of Monday hit, there was very little dog hair left to speak of; only bite marks.
Whether it’s colleague imparting a hangover cure, or a mother imploring her son to drink a glass of water between each pint, most of us have been given helpful (or perhaps unhelpful) advice about alcohol at some point or another. The problem is, when we test these folk remedies through trial and error of our own, it’s hardly the most controlled experiment. Sometimes it even ends up with a bogus rendition of Sweet Caroline.
So scientists like to step in and set the record straight from time to time, as with today’s news that beer before wine will – catchy rhyme or no catchy rhyme – do precious little to make you feel fine. Here are some other myths that benefit from scrutiny the microscope. Some of which, fortunately, hold water (and spirits, beer, wine, fizz…).
1. Gin makes you emotional
Sipping gin is up there with cutting onions or watching a soporific rom-com on a long-haul flight when it comes to making us weepy, and while the reputation of Mother’s Ruin for making us melancholy might sound like a myth, there is some basis for it. A survey of more than 30,000 people aged between 18-34 by Public Health Wales showed that spirits are far more likely than beer or wine to trigger impulsive bouts of tearfulness.
2. Drink a pint of milk before you go drinking
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet when it comes to avoiding a hangover (except, of course, not drinking). As for the idea that drinking a pint of milk before a night out will line your stomach and help you avoid a hangover… well, it’s complicated.
Primarily, the phrase ‘line your stomach’ is hopeful thinking rather than a scientific process; and indeed, there’s little by way of scientific study to show that pre-emptive milk consumption ameliorates hangovers. However, there is a morsel of theoretical truth in this one, because protein, fat and carbohydrate – milk contains all three – can slow the absorption of alcohol, and it is believed that hangovers are less severe the slower the alcohol drips into your blood stream.
Does that mean you should hit the white stuff before a night out? I refer you to my previous statement: the only magic bullet is not drinking in the first place. Sorry.
3. A pint of water and a paracetamol before bed cures a hangover
While this might be a tempting approach when you wake up with a pounding head, taking paracetamol is inadvisable because it puts extra strain on your liver, which may already be struggling to cope with the previous night’s alcohol consumption.
Taking ibuprofen in the morning is a superior choice – the drug’s inventor, Dr Stewart Adams, says he has found it to be surprisingly effective.
4. Organic wines don’t give you a hangover
While biodynamic and natural wines might be all the rage in the boutique eateries of north London, there’s little evidence they do much to avoid the doom of a hangover.
The artisanal approach to making these preservative-free vinos means the amount of sulphites (which are often blamed for red wine headaches) reduce to zero or trace amounts. But since sulphites are not actually the primary cause of a hangover, that doesn’t remove the possibility of a headache altogether.
A minority of people are sulphite-sensitive, so organic wine will feel better, but according to US wine expert Dr. Vinny, those reactions aren’t necessarily connected to hangovers per se.
5. Are beer goggles real?
The short answer is: we’re not sure. Writing in the journal Addiction, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh last year found that when people consumed alcohol, they tended to give others a higher score on the attractiveness scale.. That said, a previous experiment carried out in the UK produced the opposite result.
It seems something as subjective as this topic will require a little more research to give a definitive result. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all, whether or not they’re drinking a Stella at the time.
6. Whiskey makes you aggressive
Images of the brain taken by MRI scans have shown how alcohol dulls the decision-making faculties of the pre-frontal cortex (in short: it can facilitate stupid decisions. No surprises there, perhaps). But whiskey in particular has a reputation for inducing anger and confrontation.
Whiskey is a spirit, and as a study in the BMJ Open Journal has shown, they are more likely to induce feelings of aggression than wine or beer. However, any association with whiskey in particular is probably more to do with the expectancies we have around it. In other words: it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
7. Champagne makes a hangover worse
Unfortunately for anyone who loves to celebrate with a glass of champers, this one is true. The carbon dioxide in the bubbles cause higher blood alcohol levels and subsequently a worse hangover. A study at the University of Surrey in 2001 showed higher levels of alcohol in the blood of study participants who’d had a carbonated drink.