Beer before wine or wine before beer – both lead to hangovers

Article on hangovers - image 1
In an Abstract preceding the main article in the journal, the authors wrote: “Our findings dispel the traditional myths ‘Grape or grain but never the twain’ and ‘Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer.'”

What will it be, beer before wine or wine before beer? It doesn’t matter if you are trying to avoid a hangover, because both will lead to one, regardless of what you think of the old saying.

The old saying goes: “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer.”

Put simply, if you drink too much, you will feel ill, regardless of what order you consume your drinks.

Hangovers are something that millions of people have had or will experience during their lives. They are one of the downsides of drinking too much alcohol.

More importantly, hangovers undermine productivity and lead to impaired performance. They also increase the risk of accidents while operating heavy machinery or driving.

Causes of hangovers

Hangovers occur when high blood alcohol levels drop back to zero. Surprisingly, researchers do not know much about the phenomenon. Scientists believe that hangovers are the result of our immune response, dehydration, and metabolism and hormone disturbances.

Unfortunately, ‘hair of the dog’ remedies do not work. In other words, effective hangover remedies do not exist.

There are several old sayings regarding drinking and hangovers, and in many languages. In English, we have: “Grape or grain, but never the twain.” Grape and grain refer to wine and beer respectively.

Researchers from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and the University of Cambridge in the UK carried out a study. The wanted to determine how true these old sayings were. They wrote about their study and findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (citation below). The authors were Jöran Köchling, Berit Geis, Stefan Wirth, and Kai O Hensel.

Hangovers Same Intensity - image 2
Forget about those old sayings regarding the right way to drink. They are myths.

The study

The researchers split ninety volunteers into three groups. They were 19 to 40 years old. Each group drank:

  • Group 1: two pints of beer and then four large glasses of wine.
  • Group 2: four large glasses of wine and then two pints of beer.
  • Group 3: either just wine or just beer.

After one week, Groups 1 and 2 switched. In other words, they consumed their drinks in the opposite order. Group 3 members switched from just wine to just beer and vice-versa. Therefore, the researchers not only compared Groups 1, 2, and 3 but also the members’ first and second experiences.

The major strength of this study, the authors wrote, was its crossover design.

The researchers regularly asked the participants how they felt. They also asked them to judge their perceived level of drunkenness. There was a drunkenness scale from zero to ten, with zero being completely sober and ten completely drunk.

Before bed-time, the participants received an individualized amount of drinking water (refrigerated). The researchers tailored the water to their body weight. All the participants were kept under medical supervision while they slept.

Measuring intensity of hangovers the following morning

The following morning, participants had to answer questions about their hangover. They were given an Acute Hangover Scale score, i.e., 0-to-56. The Scale considers such factors as heart rate, thirst, fatigue, nausea, headache, and dizziness. It also considers nausea and stomach ache.

According to a University of Cambridge press release:

“The researchers found that none of the three groups had a significantly different hangover score with different orders of alcoholic drinks.”

“Women tended to have slightly worse hangovers than men. While neither blood and urine tests, nor factors such as age, sex, body weight, drinking habits and hangover frequency, helped to predict hangover intensity, vomiting and perceived drunkenness were associated with heavier hangover.”

Hangovers occur regardless of order of drinks

First author Jöran Köchling, Witten/Herdecke University, said:

“Using white wine and lager beer, we didn’t find any truth in the idea that drinking beer before wine gives you a milder hangover than the other way around.”

Senior author, Dr. Kai Hensel, a senior clinical fellow at the University of Cambridge, added:

“Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: they are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behaviour. In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes.”

Two reasons for the study

According to Dr. Hensel, there were two principal readings for carrying out the study:

“Firstly, a clear result in favour of one particular order could help to reduce hangovers and help many people have a better day after a long night out – though we encourage people to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, we found that there was no way to avoid the inevitable hangover just by favouring one order over another.”

“But this study was also about showing, in a public-friendly manner, how a rigorously-conducted study can provide a solid answer to a specific question and be engaging at the same time. We hope it will help inspire next generation of young doctors and researchers to be engaged in a research-driven environment.”

“The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover. The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick. We should all pay attention to these red flags when drinking.”

Citation

Grape or grain but never the twain? A randomized controlled multiarm matched-triplet crossover trial of beer and wine,” Jöran Köchling, Berit Geis, Stefan Wirth, and Kai O Hensel. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 109, Issue 2, 1 February 2019, Pages 345-352. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy309.