Vietnam Time

2/11/2019 9:36:23 AM

The Guardian view on the science of hangovers: no more research needed

Raise a glass, though only one, to the selfless German students and Swedish sailors who have offered up their livers to science.

 Research into hangovers turns out to be a thriving subfield of medical science. Photograph: princigalli/Getty Images/iStockphoto

As a recent scientific paper points out, “acute alcohol-induced hangover constitutes a significant, yet understudied, global hazard and a large burden to society”. There can be few readers wholly unaware of this, yet the authors go on to point out that acute hangover-associated symptoms give rise to “reduced productivity, impaired professional performance (eg falling asleep at work), workplace absenteeism, and academic underperformance”. Never on Mondays, of course.

So it is naturally a proper subject for research, especially as there are folk traditions claiming that the order in which one mixes drinks has a bearing on the subsequent hangover. Perhaps these might yield a cure that could be refined in the laboratory, much as the folk wisdom of indigenous peoples is mined by multinational drug companies for pharmacologically active compounds. So research into hangovers turns out to be a thriving subfield of medical science. A trawl through the literature shows that Swedish sailors, Swiss mice, Dutch students and, of course, uncounted American college students have all offered up their livers to bring back knowledge of this scourge.

And how they have suffered! The list of symptoms measured by one of the recognised hangover severity scales includes “fatigue, clumsiness, dizziness, apathy, sweating, shivering, nausea, heart pounding, confusion, stomach pain, concentration problems, and thirst”. This is all very much more scientific than the traditional measures employed by such researchers as Chandler (1943), whose PI found a subject explaining that he has “a hangover like seven Swedes”.

All these disagreeabilities are distinct from the symptoms of drunkenness, and only appear after the body’s blood alcohol concentration has dropped to zero. Even mice were found by Swiss researchers to suffer hangovers that lasted as long as 20 hours, as measured by their their decreased muscular strength and coordination while attempting to navigate a maze.

The most recent research, reported in this paper, was designed to discover whether the tradition preserved in several European folkways that a hangover could be averted by drinking beer before starting in on the wine, rather than going at the evening the other way round. Healthy, enthusiastic volunteers were given lager and white wine in different order with their meals until they were thoroughly affected (participants were allowed to drop out if they felt uncomfortably drunk, or indeed if they threw up, as about one in 10 did). They drank water before sleeping and, when they woke, scored the resulting hangover. It turns out that there was no difference in the severity of suffering, whatever the order they drank the wine and beer, although the control groups who drank only wine or beer unmixed were sick at a slightly lower rate. For once, no more research is needed./.

  ( VNF/The Guardian )
[ Back ]
  •   
  •  

Send comment

Code
Video