Remember all those times you chugged water and ate pizza before going to sleep after a rough night out? That has no effect on your hangover, researchers say.
Science has some bad news for all the alcohol enthusiasts out there— all of your “tricks” to avoid hangovers aren’t as effective as you may like to think. In fact, the only truly effective way to avoid a hangover is to drink less than you’d probably like to. Chugging water and indulging in a late night McDonald’s run after a night of heavy drinking does virtually nothing to prevent a hangover.
A group of international scientists from the Netherlands and Canada surveyed the drinking habits of about 800 college students to try and learn more about hangovers, drawing the undesirable conclusion that we all knew deep down inside: the only way to avoid the nausea and pounding headache the next morning is to not drink beyond your limits.
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The study participants were surveyed about their drinking habits in the previous month, including number of drinks, timeframe of consumption, and severity of hangover. The researchers calculated and compared the estimated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels in participants who experienced hangovers with those who didn’t.
We all know people who claim to never get hangovers, but the study concluded that no one is immune to them. As a matter of fact, about 80 percent of those who claimed to not experience hangovers had an estimated BAC of less than 0.10 percent— to give some frame of reference, people can legally drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent.
In a press release, lead author Dr. Joris Verster of Utrecht University, said, “In general, we found a pretty straight relationship; the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover. The majority of those who in fact reported never having a hangover tended to drink less, perhaps less than they themselves thought would lead to a hangover.”
To determine whether eating or drinking water directly after drinking alcohol made people less likely to experience a hangover, the researchers questioned over 800 Dutch students about their latest heavy drinking session, and whether food or water was consumed after the alcohol. About 450 students ate after drinking, but the hangover severity wasn’t very different from those who had ate nothing.
“Those who took food or water showed a slight statistical improvement in how they felt over those who didn’t, but this didn’t really translate into a meaningful difference. From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol,” informed Dr. Vester.
Dr. Vester elaborated in an interview with Medical News Today, clarifying that, “Water may help against thirst and dry mouth, but other hangover symptoms (e.g. nausea) persist. Dehydration is an effect of alcohol, but not the cause of the hangover. It’s more likely that the immune system is involved.”
So, the longtime myth that water and food can prevent a hangover has been debunked. Perhaps all those times we were sure that water helped us avoid that hit-by-a-truck feeling, it was all psychological. The only way to truly evade a hangover is to not drink excessively — less fun, but more scientifically supported.