Monday, December 21, 2009


Dedicated followers of this here blog will recall extensive discussion regarding alcohol and its effects on the human psyche/body. Here's a little science on the matter:

Dark Liquor Makes for Worse Hangovers

A new study may help drinkers pick their poison. In a head-to-head comparison, bourbon gave drinkers a more severe hangover than vodka, report Damaris Rohsenow of Brown University and colleagues in an upcoming issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

But vodka drinkers aren’t off the hook: Drinkers’ sleep suffered equally with both drinks, as did their performance on tasks requiring attention and quick responses. Understanding the lingering effects of alcohol after a night of heavy drinking is important for people who engage in safety-sensitive tasks, such as driving, while hung over Rohsenow says.

The researchers recruited 95 healthy young adults, ages 21 to 33, and gave them caffeine-free cola mixed with bourbon, vodka or tonic water. The drinking ended when participants’ breath-alcohol concentrations hit an average of 0.11, well over the legal intoxication limit. Participants were then hooked up to sleep monitors, which record brain activity, and allowed to sleep it off. At 7 a.m. the next day, the researchers roused the subjects from bed (a wake-up that did not include coffee or aspirin) and asked them to rate the severity of their hangovers.

Overall, bourbon drinkers reported feeling worse than vodka drinkers, rating higher on scales that measure the severity of hangover malaise, including headache, nausea, loss of appetite and thirst. It should come as no surprise that alcohol drinkers said they felt much worse than those who had drunk only tonic water.

One reason for the different effects of vodka and bourbon, Rohsenow says, could be that bourbon contains 37 times more toxic compounds than vodka does, including nasty organic molecules such as acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins and furfural. A good rule of thumb for liquors, she says, is that the clearer they are, the less of these substances they contain.

Both the bourbon drinkers and vodka drinkers slept poorly compared to the nondrinkers, the team found. The next morning, when the participants performed cognitive tests that required attention and quick reaction times, the drinkers performed worse than the nondrinkers, but the type of alcohol had no effect on performance. Both groups of drinkers were impaired equally.



e said...

Hangover-wise, you can't beat everclear. You can rock all night and rock the next morning too!

bonne said...

I am in the habit of drinking a lot of water so whenever I DO have alcohol, it's always gone faster than it should be.

Anarchist Chossid said...

I hated bourbon while living in New Orleans.

But I wanna see the standard deviation in this study. I wonder why they don’t report more objective measures -- e.g., some cognitive tests.

Also, should Damaris Rohsenow really be giving an interview while hung over?

Anarchist Chossid said...

Aha! They don’t report because they were none.

Unfortunately, my University doesn’t have subscription to the journal (I guess it’s too specialized and peripheral), but I was able to read the abstract:


Background: This study assessed the effects of heavy drinking with high or low congener beverages on next-day neurocognitive performance, and the extent to which these effects were mediated by alcohol-related sleep disturbance or alcoholic beverage congeners, and correlated with the intensity of hangover.

Methods: Healthy heavy drinkers age 21 to 33 (n = 95) participated in 2 drinking nights after an acclimatization night. They drank to a mean of 0.11 g% breath alcohol concentration on vodka or bourbon one night with matched placebo the other night, randomized for type and order. Polysomnography recordings were made overnight; self-report and neurocognitive measures were assessed the next morning.

Results: After alcohol, people had more hangover and more decrements in tests requiring both sustained attention and speed. Hangover correlated with poorer performance on these measures. Alcohol decreased sleep efficiency and rapid eye movement sleep, and increased wake time and next-day sleepiness. Alcohol effects on sleep correlated with hangover but did not mediate the effects on performance. No effect of beverage congeners was found except on hangover severity, with people feeling worse after bourbon. Virtually no sex differences appeared.

Conclusions: As drinking to this level affects complex cognitive abilities, safety could be affected, with implications for driving and for safety-sensitive occupations. Congener content affects only how people feel the next day so does not increase risk. The sleep disrupting effects of alcohol did not account for the impaired performance so other mechanisms of effect need to be sought. As hangover symptoms correlate with impaired performance, these might be contributing to the impairment.

Anarchist Chossid said...


Anarchist Chossid said...

I, did, however, find an earlier article with the same PI, which says azoy:

"In our study, congener differences between beverages did not account for differences in hangover severity. As 28% of our vodka drinkers reported moderate hangover,
our result is not consistent with Chapman’s [3] finding that bourbon yielded more moderate hangover (33% of participants) than did vodka (3%). Moreover, our findings are inconsistent with those of Pawan [29], who found that severity of hangover increased with congener content of alcoholic beverages. These inconsistencies might be attributable to differences in hangover measurement."

In other words, there is still machloikes on the issue. As usual.

e said...

What does "more moderate" mean? Does that mean more or less? This is the type of language which makes mathematicians hate humanities people.

Anarchist Chossid said...

It means that more people reported having moderate hangover in one condition than in the other.

From the point of view of someone doing real research, these studies are just silly. I mean, I see people learning structure of ion channels or finding possible cure for schizophrenia (not to mention breaking the circuit design of the brain), and here we have some people getting shickered and then reporting next morning how badly their head hurts. And all of this on taxpayers' money. This is just another display of stupidity of government-run charity — even for science.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Yay shnag whishky drinkersh. BOOO lubab wodkeh.

BTW I love how this one gets filed under farbrengen.

CA: Let's nominate this dude for an Iggy.

e said...

Aha! But were there more moderate hangovers as opposed to more sever hangovers, or as opposed to more light hangovers?

Anarchist Chossid said...

I think there were no serious hangovers. You can do a search on Google Scholar by the guy's last name and "alcoholism" or "bourbon vodka".

Just like a guy said...

Sara: This is a bad thing?

CA: It's probably easier to get funding for this than for something more abstract, no? Besides, I'm sure there were lots of undergrad volunteers for this one...

Modeh: re: label: Someone noticed! Go you!

Yossi said...

I noticed, too. go me?

Just like a guy said...

Certainly! Go you too!

BTW, I love the new name.

Yossi said...