What happens when you mix your drinks? There is much anecdotal evidence suggesting that if you mix your drinks, you'll end up with a worse hangover, compared to sticking with one type of drink.
We put this theory to the test.
Three young men from Melbourne have volunteered to participate in a drinking session:
- Ben will sip wine all night.
- Justin will top up on beer.
- Brad will drink a mixture of both.
Before they start, a blood test is done to measure the men's C-reactive protein, or CRP levels, to see how much inflammation they currently have in their bodies.
Since a hangover is partly caused by inflammation, the test will be able to reveal how 'hung over' the participants are. Measuring and charting C-reactive protein values can prove useful in determining disease progress or the effectiveness of treatments.
The men will again be tested the following day after the drinking session. The results will then be compared with the help of Dr Jeffrey Wiese, Associate Professor of Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, USA.
They head off to the bar for a night of drinking. Guess who's the first to hightail it to the toilet? Justin, the beer guy.
The effect of the alcohol kicks in and that impairs the kidney to reabsorb the volume. Volume gets to the kidney and comes right out the bladder and into the toilet," says Dr Wiese.
"While it seems like you're maintaining hydration because you're going to the bathroom so much, well it's actually the beginning of the dehydration component because all that volume you're losing is not only water but it's also a lot of the electrolytes and vitamins that your body needs to fight off this hangover."
After a hot night of clubbing, it's time to send our boys to bed.
The next morning they're woken up in time for their second blood test they're all looking a little worse for wear.
The results are in
Our three volunteers reassemble to get their test results.
Anyone who sees an increase in their CRP levels will know the demon drink has done them harm.
Ben white wine drinker:
- CRP Before: 1.5
- After: 1.9
His CRP levels have gone up. White wine contains an average of 12 to 13 percent alcohol and the amount Ben put away was enough to move his CRP levels to a stinking hangover.
Justin beer drinker:
- CRP Before: 0.4
- After: 0.3
"Now the mitigating feature of people that are drinking beer because it has more volume per unit of alcohol are also getting some hydration," explains Dr Wiese.
In comparison to wine, beer averages around five percent alcohol, which helps explains why Justin got off so lightly.
Brad mixed drinker:
- CRP Before: 1.2
- After: 1.1
Brad's results are surprising, but not to Dr Wiese who says there really is no evidence to suggest that mixing drinks and the order in which we should drink alcohol causes a worse hangover. He believes it's just that you tend to drink more when mixing alcoholic beverages.
In our study it was the alcoholic strength of the drinks which determined the worst hangover, but that isn't always the case. If we had given our mixed drinker a dark drink, like red wine or whisky, to chase his beer down, his CRP levels would have been much worse.
Why? As a general rule, darker drinks contain more alcoholic impurities called congeners. These impurities cause inflammation, and in turn, a worse hangover.
"You're taking in multiple different types of fermented products. And so the chance of having a higher congener concentration to induce that inflammation may be higher in that group," says Dr Wiese.
So mixing your drinks won't always give you a worse hangover. The real culprit, apart from alcoholic volume, is the amount of congeners. So if you want a clear head the next day, Dr Wiese says stick to clear alcohol like vodka and gin. Better still, don't drink to excess and you'll wake up as fresh as a daisy.
- You've probably heard that women can't handle alcohol as well as men. All the evidence says that's right. Generally speaking, women are physically smaller than men, they have more body fat, but smaller livers, so they can't break down alcohol as quickly as men. Dr Wiese says five to six standard drinks will guarantee a man a hangover and for women, three to five drinks.
- Want a good reason not to binge drink? The increased blood pressure and heart rate caused by a hangover increases your risk of heart attack, so take it easy.
Do you get a worse hangover when you mix drinks?Comment below