The old wives’ rhymes we tell ourselves about responsible alcohol consumption have basically nothing to do with reality, a new study on drinking has found.
Researchers at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. found that hangovers are equal-opportunity pests.
For this advancement of science, we have to thank 90 brave volunteers, aged 19 to 40, who were split into three groups: The first group consumed around two and a half pints of beer followed by four large glasses of wine; the second consumed the same amounts of beer and wine, only in reverse order. Subjects in a third control group consumed only beer or wine up to a blood alcohol level of 0.11%.
One week later, participants in the first two groups were switched to imbibe the opposite drinks, as were the control subjects who initially drank either beer or wine. Before going to bed, participants received an amount of refrigerated drinking-water based on their body weight and were kept under medical supervision overnight. They were also asked to judge their level of drunkenness on a scale of 0 to 10 at the end of each day.
The following morning, they were then asked about their hangover and given a score from 0 to 56 on the Acute Hangover Scale, based on factors including thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness and nausea.
Researchers found that none of the three groups experienced significantly different hangover scores when the alcoholic drinks we re-ordered. Factors including age, sex, body weight, drinking habits and hangover frequency also did not help predict hangover intensity — although vomiting and perceived drunkenness were associated with heavier hangovers (as most college students can confirm).
“The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover. The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick,” Jöran Köchling of Witten/Herdecke University said.
Hangover symptoms, which occur when higher-than-normal blood alcohol concentrations drop back to zero, remain somewhat of a medical mystery, however. It is believed they’re caused by dehydration, immune response and disturbances of metabolism and hormones.
The study, published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was inspired by researchers wondering whether the rhymes regarding drinking have any basis in reality. “We wanted to do a sophisticated gag which has now gone way over the top,” Kai Hensel of Cambridge told The Guardian.
In addition to the English “Grape or grain, but never the twain,” Germans say “Wein auf Bier, das rat’ ich Dir—Bier auf Wein, das lass’ sein” (Wine after beer, I recommend it; beer after wine, let it be), and the French say “Bière sur vin est venin, vin sur bière est belle manière” (Beer after wine is poison, wine after beer is the beautiful way).
There is still research to be done, however: The researchers tested only white wine and lager donated by Carlsberg. So far there’s no definitive answer to the question of beer before liquor vs. liquor before beer.