Study Finds Hangover 'Cures' Aren't

The researchers' sober advice: drink moderately

FRIDAY, Dec. 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Revelers toasting to the holidays can't count on drugs or herbal concoctions to cure their hangovers, British researchers report.

"No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover," concludes a team led by Max Pittler, a research fellow in Complementary Medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Their less-than-inspiring advice? Practice either abstinence or moderation when the glasses are being filled.

A second study may provide some help with moderation: It found that people tend to consume a smaller amount of liquor from tall, skinny glasses than from short, squat ones -- even when the two receptacles are designed to hold the same amount of liquid.

Both reports appear in the Dec. 24/31 issue of the British Medical Journal.

In the first study, Pittler's team gathered data from eight trials that looked at medical treatment for preventing or treating hangovers.

The trials tested eight different agents: propranolol (an antihypertensive drug), tropisetron (a drug for nausea and vertigo), tolfenamic acid (a painkiller), fructose or glucose sugars, and the dietary supplements borage, artichoke, prickly pear.

Most of these trials found no beneficial effects for these agents on hangover, although borage, a yeast-based preparation, and tolfenamic acid did show some benefit.

Drinking may be fun for a while, but it comes with a price that may be unavoidable, one expert said.

"The supply of folklore remedies for hangover is virtually limitless," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "The best way to contend with hangover is not to get one, by practicing abstinence or moderation."

However, many rational approaches to avoiding or reversing hangover have simply not been formally tested, Katz said. "There is some evidence that dehydration is part of the hangover syndrome, so drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, particularly water, before, during and after a holiday indulgence may help."

"In addition, spacing out alcohol consumption will allow your body's enzymes a better chance to keep up, and likely reduce toxic side effects," Katz said. "A simple strategy to accomplish both is to alternate alcoholic beverages with something like seltzer."

Another study in the same journal finds the shape of the glass helps determine the size of the drink.

A research team led by Brian Wansink, chairman of marketing and applied economics at Cornell University, and his colleagues found that people pour 20 percent to 30 percent more alcohol into short, wide glasses than they do into tall, narrow ones of the same volume.

However, they believe that tall glasses hold more, Wansink said. Even professional bartenders pour more into short, wide glasses than into highball glasses, they found.

"If a person wants to limit how much they consume, it's better if you pour into a tall, skinny glass," Wansink said. "If as a host you want to limit what people drink, you better use tall, skinny glasses. You will be less likely to pour too much," he added.

More information

For more on hangovers, head to the National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, public health, and director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Brian Wansink, Ph.D., chairman, marketing and applied economics, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; Dec. 24/31, 2005, British Medical Journal
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