Cocktail Clinic

Dr. Melissa Lem answers your burning booze questions.


Q: Will certain drinks get you drunker faster than others? —Robin

Dr. Melissa says... "I have three words of wisdom for you: Beware of bubbles. Research has shown that carbonation actually increases the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Stick to bubble-free drinks, such as wine, and choose juice or water over fizzy mixers.

Q: Why can some people hold their booze better than others? —Holly

Dr. Melissa says... "There are a few factors that can affect a person's ability to process alcohol. First? Gender. All things being equal, men do actually hold their liquor better than women. One of the reasons for this is that the enzyme responsible for helping the body to break down alcohol, alcohol dehydrogenase, is significantly more active in men than in women.

"The second factor is ethnicity. Certain ethnic groups are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others. About a third of East Asians suffer from a condition called alcohol flush reaction, which causes them to blush when they drink.

"Finally, your genetics determine how you handle alcohol. For example, if your great-grandfather could hold his drink, chances are likely you will too."

Q: What actually causes a hangover? —Charlotte

cocktail_clinic2.jpgDr. Melissa says... "Drinking! (Just kidding.) There are a few bodily processes responsible for your pounding head the morning after. When you drink, alcohol suppresses the release of vasopressin, a chemical in the brain that helps the kidneys regulate urine output. That's why you urinate up to four times more fluid than you actually consume when under the influence. Also, your liver works the night shift while you're sleeping and needs water to break down the alcohol, which it conveniently 'borrows' from your brain. As a result, your brain actually shrinks and pulls on the membranes that attach it to your skull. Et voila! A nasty headache to remind you of just how much fun you had last night!"

Got a cocktail query for Dr. Melissa? Share it in the comments below!