Hangover: drink color does matter

January 19, 2010 by  
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Alcoholic drinks weren’t created equal. They come in different sizes, strengths, tastes, and yes – colors. You’d think that the last one is the least important when it comes to the after effects. But actually color does matter, according to researchers at Brown University.

The study looked at 95 young adults aged 21 to 33 who were healthy and were partial to alcoholic drinks. The participant were given caffeine-free cola mixed with bourbon, vodka or tonic water to drink until the alcohol drinkers reached the level of being “legally drunk”, i.e. their breath alcohol concentrations were on average 0.11. The intoxicated participants were then allowed to sleep it off. During sleep, the participants were hooked up to sleep monitors which also recorded brain activity. The following day, the participants were awakened and were asked to report on the severity of their hangovers without the aid of coffee or aspirin. Here are some of the findings:

  • Dark drinks such as bourbon resulted in more severe hangovers compared to those reported by the vodka drinkers. Hangover symptoms reported include headache, nausea, loss of appetite and thirst.
  • The alcohol drinkers’ sleep quality was greatly diminished regardless of the color of the drink.
  • The alcohol drinker’s capacity to perform safety-sensitive tasks was also diminished, even up to the following morning. The type of alcohol has not type in their performance.
  • Expectedly, those who imbibed tonic water fare better in terms of sleep and task performance the next day. It was also no surprise that they didn’t report any hangover symptoms.

According to Brown researcher Damaris Rohsenow

“People did feel sicker the morning after bourbon than after vodka, but they still feel plenty sick after drinking all that vodka.”

The differences in the severity of hangovers may be due to natural chemicals generated during the distillation process. According to Rohsenow, bourbon contains 37 times more toxic compounds than vodka does, including nasty organic molecules such as acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins and furfural. Thus, the clearer the liquor, the less of these substances it contains, and the less severe are the hangover symptoms.

However, the lack of hangover symptoms does not mean the drinker is fit enough to perform certain tasks. All alcoholic drinks are created equal when it comes to postdrinking impairment.

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