From preventing hangovers to nursing them, we all have 100 tricks up our sleeves, most involving at least a few glasses of water. But, it seems that our efforts are mostly in vain as dehydration doesn’t actually cause hangovers.
Molecular biologist Patrick Schmitt has questioned everything we know about hangovers, revealing that they aren’t caused by dehydration. So by default, drinking your weight in water after a night out won’t do much to make you feel better the next day.
He confessed to Business Insider: ‘It's a misconception that drinking water helps you avoid a hangover.’
Why do we believe water prevents hangovers?
Although the glass of water after every drink concept has been shattered, the idea that water prevents hangovers didn’t appear from nowhere. The belief was born from a misinterpretation of a 1950 study that proved alcohol is a diuretic and makes us expel more water than usual.
Schmitt explained: ‘However, the wrong conclusions were drawn from these results.’
It was thought that, as the body was excreting more water, it would therefore become dehydrated — and this was simply accepted as a conclusive explanation for why we get hangovers.
To cement his theory, Schmitt conducted his own study, monitoring the hydration of 240 subjects while they drank as much as they wanted over the space of four hours.
During the study, the participants had to deliver their urine, as well as weigh and measure themselves. Subjects also had to have their blood pressure taken and have their skin evaluated for protective substances. Then, the same measurement procedures were repeated ten hours later, when the participants were no doubt feeling dusty. Subjects also had to self evaluate their hangover symptoms via a survey to distinguish which punishing factors were the most prevalent.
The study, which was reported by the Berliner Morgenpost, found that despite needing to use the bathroom every five minutes, alcohol consumption didn’t cause dehydration. Schmitt explained:
That recommendation to drink a lot of water when consuming alcohol is based on exactly this misconception. Since the body isn't actually getting dehydrated, drinking water alongside alcohol has absolutely no effect on whether or not you end up with a hangover.
What really causes hangovers?
If dehydration isn’t the culprit, why does a night on the town always leave us feeling like absolute death the next day?
According to Chemistry World,hangovers are the result of ethanol which is commonly found in alcoholic drinks. This chemical can cause sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and even affects our cardiovascular system.
To metabolise ethanol, the body needs to produce ethanal (acetaldehyde) which helps to mitigate the oxidative stress caused by drinking. But, if your body doesn’t produce enough ethanal, this could lead to a hangover.
However, hangovers can be caused by more than just ethanol. A night of binge drinking can also affect the immune system, blood sugar levels and irritate the lining of your stomach, which can leave you feeling shaky, nauseous and unable to remember exactly how you got home.
If you do want to avoid a hangover, it’s best to skip the booze altogether. But, although water may not be the preventative or cure we thought it was, it won’t do you any harm, and it may help you feel a little less crusty.