Many people — from all around the world — will have heard different myths about drinking and curing hangovers.
They range from the “hair of the dog,” the belief that the best cure for a hangover is to have another drink, to the greasy morning-after meal that supposedly “soaks up” the alcohol.
Lots of people do believe in hangover remedies and prevention strategies, but these are rarely backed up by research.
One such belief concerns the strength of the alcohol consumed. Some believe that it is “better” to start with a drink lower in alcohol volume, such as beer, and continue with higher-volume alcohol, such as wine, to avoid getting a hangover.
Does such a claim withstand rigorous research? Scientists at the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany — in collaboration with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom — set out to examine the literal truth behind the saying, “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer.”
To do so, the researchers examined the effects that drinking beer and wine in different orders had on 90 study participants who were all 19–40 years old.
Dr. Kai Hensel, a senior clinical fellow at the University of Cambridge, is the senior author of the new study paper, and Jöran Köchling is its first author.
Dr. Hensel and his team divided the 90 participants into three groups. One group drank around 2.5 pints of beer and then four large glasses of wine, while the second group started with the glasses of wine and then drank the beers.
There was also a third (control) group that drank either beer or wine. A week later, the participants in the study groups that had both beer and wine reversed the order of drinking, and those who drank only wine the first time had beer the second time, and vice versa.
The scientists asked the participants to self-report on their level of drunkenness using a scale from 0 to 10 at the end of each drinking session.
The next day, the team assessed the acuteness of the participants’ hangover using an 8-item scale that included the hangover markers “thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, tachycardia, and loss of appetite.”
Overall, the three groups had a similar hangover intensity, and the order of drinking did not make a difference. Women, however, had worse hangovers than men.
As Köchling reports, “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.”
Dr. Hensel also comments on the findings, saying, “[A] clear result in favor of one particular order could help to reduce hangovers and help many people have a better day after a long night out.”
“But this study,” he goes on, “was also about showing, in a public-friendly manner, how a rigorously conducted study can provide a solid answer to a specific question and be engaging at the same time.”
“We hope,” he explains, “it will help inspire [the] next generation of young doctors and researchers to be engaged in a research-driven environment.”
In the United States, 1 in 6 adults engage in binge drinking about four times per month, with men being twice as likely as women to binge drink.