In the new book, Proof: The Science of Booze, author Adam Rogers takes a look at hangovers and the many popular myths that accompany them. In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Rogers recounted some of them.
Science is necessary to help us understand why drinking can make us feel so good, and so bad – ie. the hangover – said Rogers, but scientists have only started to research the hangover and share a common language around it.
“Hangovers have different symptoms for different people. Some people wear their hangovers in their guts and some people have horrible headaches, but we still see all of those things as a hangover.”
Rogers says that one of the major myths when it comes to hangovers is that they’re caused by dehydration. Everyone says, “Oh, it’s because alcohol dehydrates you and that’s what’s causing the hangover.” He explained how many people try to remedy this by alternating between one glass of alcohol and one glass of water when drinking. Another tip is to drink a large glass of water before going to bed. Rogers says that dehydration is in fact a side effect of drinking too much, but it’s not what’s causing your hangover.
You can fix the dehydration and you’re still going to have a hangover.
Some people say you can avoid a hangover by eating the right foods before you can go out, according to Bustle.
Another myth is that affected blood sugar is the reason for the hangover.
“When you drink, your blood sugar levels are affected. But by the time you’re hung over, your blood sugar levels are back to normal.”
Okay, what about mixing different kinds of drinks? “Wine before beer, in the clear. Beer before liquor, never sicker.” Does mixing different drink types affect your hangover? Apparently not.
“You can do the study where you can have somebody drinking the same drink and getting to the same blood alcohol level and somebody drinking different drinks and getting to the same blood alcohol and they both get the same hangover, they both report the same symptoms.”
So what is a hangover?
Rogers says that recently scientists have decided that a hangover is a result of an inflammatory response, sort of like the flu.
“If you look at people with hangovers, the same markers in the blood that you would see with an inflammatory response, things like cytokines, for example – which are molecules that the immune system uses to talk to itself – actually do seem elevated, and even better, you can induce what looks like a hangover by giving somebody those same molecules. That’s good news because if you say, ‘Well, it’s an inflammatory response,’ then maybe I can go with anti-inflammatory drugs, and we have those.”
Of course, the sure-fire way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol altogether.
image via A Movie A Week