WHICH HANGOVER’S THE WORST?
It may be a matter of splitting hairs when it comes to over-indulging, but the actual type of liquor you drink may determine the severity of hangover the next day. A new study finds that, compared with vodka, if you drink too much bourbon you’re going to suffer more for it with a bad hangover. But when it comes to next-day activities, it doesn’t matter which of the two beverages you drink; your performance is likely to be the same. The study involved 95 participants, between the ages of 21 to 33, who were heavy drinkers but had no history of alcohol abuse. Their task, for which they were each paid $45O, was simple: get drunk. The authors weren’t just looking at the effects of alcohol, however. They were specifically interested in the levels of toxic substances in alcohol called congeners. Congeners are byproducts of alcohol fermentation, and they are partly responsible for the alcohol’s color. Darker liquors and wines have more congeners than lighter ones. According to the study, the amount of congeners in bourbon is 37 times the amount in vodka. “While the alcohol alone is enough to make many people feel sick the next day, these toxic natural substances can add to the ill effects as our body reacts to them,” Damaris Rohsenow, a professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, said in a statement. In the study, Rohsenow and her colleagues wanted to investigate whether or not congener levels had any effect on hangover symptoms the following day, or the ability of people to perform certain tasks. Participants consumed either vodka or bourbon mixed with caffeine-free cola on one night until they had consumed enough to induce a hangover. On a separate night, the participants unknowingly drank a placebo – cola with tonic and a few drops of either bourbon or vodka in order to avoid suspicions. Once the subjects’ breath alcohol levels had reached about zero, they were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding how they felt. They also performed tasks to measure their cognitive function, which tested their ability to pay close attention to a task while also making rapid choices. Not surprisingly, alcoholic drinks made people feel more hungover than the placebo, but bourbon made people feel even worse than vodka. However, while alcohol also impaired performances on the cognitive tasks, “they did no worse after bourbon than after vodka,” Rohsenow said. The study also looked at the effects of alcohol on sleep, and found that although alcohol did disrupt sleep, people who drank bourbon slept just as well as those who drank vodka. “This means that bourbon’s greater effects on hangover are not due to it having greater effects on sleep,” Rohsenow said. The results will be published in the March issue of the journal alcoholism: clinical & experimental research.