Columns / Discourse / April 8, 2015

Say goodbye to beer hangovers?

Associate Professor Ben Desbrow, of Australia’s Griffith University, is currently pursuing a method by which to manufacture a beer that comes hangover-free. “Beer itself is not what I would call a dehydrator,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald, “but it’s a very poor rehydrater.”

While beer is a fluid, it does not allow the body to retain the fluid ingested in sufficient quantities to prevent dehydration. This is especially relevant as beer is often associated with high energy, thirst-inducing activities like dancing or partying. As such, their efforts in creating a hangover-free beer have focused primarily on ensuring the body retains the water consumed in said beer, rather than only urinating it out shortly after.

His team’s research has involved adding the electrolyte sodium to beers of varying alcohol content, which is then consumed by test subjects. After a one-hour cycling session, the test subjects were measured by how much they urinated and the resulting amount of body mass lost. Writing in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Desbrow and his team found success in increasing the water retention of the beer drinking cyclists, but only for beers of a relatively low alcohol content (in his experiment, Desbrow used 2.3 percent Alcohol-by-Volume beer for the light beer). The experiment was also performed by adding either 25 or 50 mmol/L of sodium to 4.8 percent ABV beer, but no statistically significant water retention effects were observed with the twelve cyclists.

While no solid evidence for their sodium method for higher alcohol beers revealed itself, the team is still emboldened by their success with the lower alcohol content beer. They now look to conquer the next hurdle to creating good beer: taste. “As a scientist I’ve got a very good idea of what to do in a lab, but I don’t understand consumer behaviour,” Desbrow told the Herald.

To solve this issue, the group is currently running an online survey in an effort to more fully understand Australia’s drinking habits and tastes.

It should be remembered, however, that even if a hangover-resistant beer were to hit the market, it wouldn’t be the magic bullet to stop those morning headaches. According to a study conducted at the University of Barcelona, the causes of hangovers are still poorly understood, and can arise from a variety of factors, not just dehydration. Still, Desbrow’s research could one day defray the socio-economic costs of the common hangover, and give many people a much more pleasant morning after.


Kyle Connor

Tags:  beer experts hangover hydration new science

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