Everything you thought you knew about preventing hangovers may have been wrong, a new study suggests
Guzzling two bottles of water before bed like a wise older sibling advised? Wrong. That thing you read on the internet about mixing vodka with Gatorade? Wrong.
Hitting a fast-food joint after the bar to "soak up" what's left of those last call tequila shots? Delicious at the time, perhaps, but pulled pork poutine won't make you feel any better the next morning.
In fact, there's only one surefire way to prevent a hangover entirely, according to scientists: abstaining from alcohol.
Researchers from the Netherlands and Canada questioned more than 1,600 university students from their respective countries in an attempt to find out how eating or drinking water after heavy alcohol consumption affects the likelihood of a hangover.
A total of 789 students from Acadia University in Nova Scotia were surveyed at the time of the study about their drinking habits over the previous month. This involved telling researchers the number of drinks they had consumed, the timeframe of consumption and the severity of their hangovers.
According to Utrecht University's Dr. Joris Verster, the study's lead author, people who brag that they're somehow "immune" to hangovers may simply be drinking less than they think.
"In general, we found a pretty straight relationship: The more you drink the more likely you are to get a hangover," Verster said while presenting the findings this weekend at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology's annual congress in Amsterdam.
"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."
Evidence for this came by way of calculating the estimated blood alcohol concentration in Canadian students who reported experiencing hangovers, as opposed to those who didn't.
In general, we found a pretty straight relationship: The more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover. -Dr. Joris Verster, pharmacology professor, Utrecht University
Four-fifths of those who claimed not to experience hangovers had an estimated blood alcohol level of less than 0.10 per cent while partying — just slightly over the legal limit of 0.08 per cent for fully licensed drivers in Canada.
As for food, 449 of the 826 Dutch students surveyed reported that they had consumed water or had eaten food following their most recent heavy drinking session.
The students were asked to rate how they felt the next day on a scale from "absent" hangover to "extreme" hangover.
"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," Vester said of the results. "From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol."
While the study's authors admit that there are limitations to the questionnaire-based methodology they used, Verster said the results "do give us an indication of what happens."
"Our next step is to move forward with more controlled trials," he said.