The Hangover Quotient of Holiday Drinks

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At this time
of year, even the most strong-willed of us can indulge in a tipple
too many – only to regret it the next morning. So, what is the best
way to avoid a hangover?

All alcoholic
beverages are variations of the chemical ethanol and the liver and
brain deal with it the same way, regardless of whether you’re quaffing
Champagne or downing beer.

But your favourite
drink may also include ingredients that not only make a difference
to how fast alcohol affects you but also how you feel the morning
after.

Here, with
the help of a leading expert on alcohol toxicology, Professor Wayne
Jones, of the University of Health Sciences in Linkping, Sweden,
we look at the differences between popular alcoholic drinks – and
their hangover effect.

Of course it
is risky to drink any alcohol to excess – under official government
guidelines, men are supposed to have no more than three to four
units a day, women two to three units.

And be warned:
‘If you drink any type of alcohol on an empty stomach, the rate
of absorption is sometimes so fast that it compares with getting
it intravenously,’ says Professor Jones.

Vodka

Vodkais made
by fermenting grains or crops such as potatoes with yeast. It’s
then purified and repeatedly filtered, often through charcoal, strange
as it sounds, until it’s as clear as possible.

CALORIES:
Because vodka contains no carbohydrates or sugars, it contains only
calories from ethanol (around 7 calories per gram), making it the
least-fattening alcoholic beverage. So a 35ml shot of vodka would
contain about 72 calories.

PROS:
Vodka is the ‘cleanest’ alcoholic beverage because it contains hardly
any ‘congeners’ – impurities normally formed during fermentation.
These play a big part in how bad your hangover is.

Despite its
high alcohol content – around 40 per cent – vodka is the
least likely alcoholic drink to leave you with a hangover, said
a study by the British Medical Association.

CONS:
Vodka is often a factor in binge drinking deaths because it is relatively
tasteless when mixed with fruit juices or other drinks.

HANGOVER
SEVERITY: 3/10

WHISKY

Whisky or Scotch
is distilled from fermented grains, such as barley or wheat, then
aged in wooded casks.

CALORIES:
About 80 calories per 35ml shot.

PROS:
Single malt whiskies have been found to contain high levels of ellagic
acid, according to Dr Jim Swan of the Royal Society of Chemists.
This powerful acid inhibits the growth of tumours caused by certain
carcinogens and kills cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

CONS:
Whisky ‘madness’ – erratic and unpredictable behaviour –
is a common problem with drinking whisky. It’s caused by the way
most people drink it – neat, explains Professor Jones.

His experiments
show that among people drinking the same amount of ethanol, those
drinking it in the form of spirits, such as whisky, had the quickest
and highest peak in the blood alcohol concentration, which occurred
less than an hour after drinking began.

HANGOVER
SEVERITY: 8/10

WHITE WINE

White wine
is made from the fermented juice of grapes stripped of their seeds
and skins.

CALORIES:
Around 130 calories per 175 ml glass; slightly more in sweeter wines.

PROS:
American researchers found that grape flesh contains the chemicals
tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, which help lower arteryclogging LDL
cholesterol.

CONS:
It’s the sulphites formed naturally or added to white wine as preservatives
to stop it going brown which are the most likely cause of the ‘white
wine hangover’ many people complain of.

Sulphites also
carry the risk of an allergic reaction which can worsen symptoms
such as a headache, or asthma. White wines also wear away tooth
enamel faster, making teeth more sensitive.

HANGOVER
SEVERITY: 6/10

Read
the rest of the article

December
16, 2009

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