Food truck and hot dog stand vendors know, the best time to set up shop is on a Friday or Saturday night around 1:30-4am. Why? Because after a heavy night of drinking, most people are on the lookout for some quick and greasy food. Some are legitimately hungry, while others eat because they believe that eating food will miraculously soak up the alcohol in their blood, preventing a hangover in the morning. Unfortunately, new research has emerged which suggests that this is not entirely true.

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The morning after a night of excessive drinking is definitely not fun. I can speak from experience here, as I’ve had some of the worst hangovers imaginable – the kind where you think banging your head against a wall might make it feel better! The generally held belief is that drinking loads of water and eating before going to bed after a night of drinking will help prevent a hangover the next day, and for some that may be the case. However, a recent survey conducted by the ECNP Congress (The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology) in Amsterdam has arrived at an altogether different, and perhaps a little surprising, conclusion. They surveyed students from the Netherlands and Canada and found that the only real way to avoid a hangover is simple: drink less.

The Study

789 Canadian students were surveyed about their drinking in the previous month. After getting the specifics, like the number of drinks, the timeframe of consumption, and the severity of their hangover, an impressive 79% of those who claimed not to experience hangovers had an estimated blood alcohol level of less than 0.10%.

They also questioned 826 Dutch students on their latest heavy drinking session, asking whether they had food or water after the alcohol. 449 students (54.4%) ate after drinking. The students were also asked to rate their hangover (from absent to extreme). It turns out that hangover severity was not markedly different between the group that ate and the group that did not. Joris Verster, the lead author of the study, explains:

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. From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol.

So What?

It’s a pretty straight-forward relationship – the more you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover. Although people that took food or water after showed a slight statistical improvement in how they felt, the difference wasn’t a significant one. On top of feeling bad about the copious amount of alcohol you may have consumed, feelings of regret may also creep up about the burger, pizza, or french fries you ate at the end of the night. Given how popular alcohol is in social gatherings and the economics of this industry, it’s important to understand how to avoid the dreaded ‘morning after.’  Unfortunately for some, that really does translate to simply drinking less.

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However, since 25% – 30% of drinkers regularly claim they don’t experience hangovers and may be, accordingly, more likely to continue to drinking, reliable research on the consequences of excessive drinking is still needed. This survey is likely only the first step towards more rigorous evaluation.

So, the next time someone tells you they never get hangovers, ask how much they drink.


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