'Beer before wine' not always fine for preventing hangovers, study says

If you plan your evening's alcohol consumption by the old wives' tale "beer before wine and you'll feel fine; wine before beer, have fear," then you might wake up tomorrow feeling awful.

Researchers at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and at the University of Cambridge put the saying to the test to determine if the order in which you imbibe beer and alcohol makes a difference.

Their study, published Feb. 8 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, divided 90 volunteers into three groups. To get the groups as equally likely to be drunk as possible, participants were divided into groups of "triplets" based on similar age, gender, body composition, alcohol drinking habits and hangover frequency. Each triplet was then randomly assigned to one of the three larger groups.

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On the first day of the study, group one was served beer before wine; group two drank wine before beer; and group three was served one or the other, but not both.

A week later, groups one and two switched their order of consumption, and those who drank wine in group three drank beer while who had beer on day one drank wine.

The volunteers, ages 19-40, drank until they reached a breath alcohol concentration of 0.11 percent.

The day after each party, er ... test, participants scored their hangover symptoms — thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, tachycardia (elevated heart rate) and loss of appetite — on a scale of zero to 7, with zero being no symptoms.

The results? There was no difference in hangover intensity based on the order of alcohol consumption.

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They were "unable to confirm that the well-known folklore of drinking 'beer before wine' purportedly results in a worse hangover than drinking 'wine before beer,'" their report stated.

The researchers admitted the study had limitations, including an inability to create a control group that drank only nonalcoholic beer or wine.

"When they tried to, QZ.com reported, "participants expressed 'real dissatisfaction and envy' about not being in the 'ever-so-happy booze-sipping study groups'—even trying surreptitiously to sneak in."

Abstaining from alcohol is the only sure way to avoid a hangover, researchers said, adding that “perceived drunkenness and vomiting are useful predictors of misery in the morning after the night before.”

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