How These Alcohol Compounds Have an effect on Your Hangovers


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The pursuit of avoiding a hangover is as outdated as alcohol itself. Historic Romans swore by fried canary and sheep’s lungs, whereas the Irish suggested burying your self in moist sand as much as your neck. However one perpetrator that includes no added price or danger of bathroom lung tends to resurface across the holidays: congeners in alcohol.

What are they? Does consuming drinks low in congeners truly work? Or is that this an outdated (and sure hungover) wives’ story? Let’s check out what the science says.

What Are Congeners?

When grapes or grain are fermented, they produce alcohol — together with byproducts generally known as congeners. These embody chemical substances like methanol, acetone, and tannins, which contribute to the colour, odor, and style of an alcoholic beverage, says Gillian Teitz, MS, a biochemist and host of the dependancy science podcast Sober Powered.

What Alcohols Have The Most Congeners?

light alcohol vs dark alcohol | congeners in alcohol

Gentle-colored alcohols comprise fewer congeners. Examples embody:

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • White wine
  • Gentle beers

Darkish-colored alcohols comprise extra congeners. These embody:

  • Bourbon
  • Whiskey
  • Crimson wine
  • Darkish beers

What Causes Hangovers?

man holding head drinking water | congeners in alcohol

Right here’s a reality worthy of a spit take: Scientists nonetheless don’t totally perceive what causes a hangover. It appears a bit loopy when you think about the familiarity of hangover signs — nausea, headache, fatigue, anxiousness, shakiness, and occasional prayers for loss of life.

An early principle — dehydration — is now thought-about a separate symptom of an evening of extreme ingesting. Though alcohol is a diuretic (substances that improve urine manufacturing), some research discovered that individuals who skilled hangover signs weren’t dehydrated.

The present prevailing clarification includes alcohol metabolism. Once we devour alcohol (a.ok.a. ethanol), the physique’s first precedence turns into breaking it down and eliminating it from the physique. Initially, the liver turns ethanol right into a substance known as acetaldehyde, which is believed to be 10 to 30 occasions extra poisonous than alcohol. Acetaldehyde is then damaged down into innocent acetate and water, which is eradicated by way of urine.

How Do Congeners Have an effect on Hangovers?

hungover woman staring at empty alcohol bottles | congeners in alcohol

The speculation continues: The longer alcohol and acetaldehyde stay within the physique, the extra injury they will do, and the more serious your hangover shall be. Congeners are believed to compete with ethanol for the physique’s processing bandwidth, and this can lead to alcohol hanging round longer whereas congeners are damaged down, says Teitz.

Some research have discovered that high-congener drinks could cause worse hangovers than low-congener drinks.

“It may be concluded that alcoholic drinks that comprise extra congeners produce extra extreme alcohol hangovers,” wrote authors of a evaluation of research within the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. “Furthermore, a latest survey confirmed it takes fewer high-congener drinks to get a hangover, whereas on the similar time the severity of those hangovers is most pronounced.”

It’s all in regards to the alcohol

So, to keep away from a hangover, simply stick with low-congener drinks? Good luck discovering a health care provider or scientist who will advocate it. Specialists are fairly unanimous: The most important contributor to a hangover isn’t congeners. It’s alcohol itself.

“In the event you drink sufficient alcohol, you’re going to get a hangover,” says Teitz. “Whereas the quantity of congeners current could barely worsen a hangover, a hangover is brought on by the amount of alcohol you will have consumed.”

“The few experimental research point out that the best congener beverage (bourbon) leads to extra extreme hangover rankings than does the beverage with basically no congeners (vodka),” wrote authors of a evaluation of analysis revealed in Present Drug Abuse Evaluations. “Though, ethanol results per se had a significantly stronger impact on hangover than did congener content material.”

In any case, it’s primarily alcohol, not congeners, that causes probably the most bothersome bodily results we affiliate with hangovers: It may well irritate your abdomen (resulting in nausea or different GI upset), can influence blood sugar steadiness (making you’re feeling weak or shaky), and might contribute to bodywide irritation and sleep disruption (which might make you’re feeling fatigued, achy, or simply typically awful).

How Do You Keep away from A Hangover?

man refusing alcoholic drink | congeners in alcohol

Nearly everybody who’s tied on one too many has a suggestion on how you can keep away from a hangover after overindulging. These can vary from fundamental (simply drink water!) to pretty elaborate. For instance, Prime Chef host Padma Lakshmi swears by a pre-bedtime ritual of 1,000 mg of Vitamin C, one liter of water, and an egg-and-cheese sandwich.

However, in line with medical science, the official reply is that this: There’s no trickery that may rescue you. “In a number of research, no efficient methodology of hangover prevention was discovered,” mentioned Daniel Okay. Corridor-Flavin, MD, an dependancy psychiatrist on the Mayo Clinic. “The one positive method to stop a hangover is to drink carefully or not drink in any respect.”

How the consultants outline moderation: Not more than two alcoholic drinks a day for males and no multiple for girls.

In keeping with the Cleveland Clinic, one drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of standard or mild beer; roughly one can (5% alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor or many forms of craft beers; about half a pint glass (7% alcohol).
  • 5 ounces of desk wine; about one glass (12% alcohol).
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor; roughly one shot (40% alcohol).

“The most effective factor you are able to do to keep away from a hangover is to drink much less alcohol,” says Teitz, “or weigh the professionals and cons and determine that the hangover is price it.”


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