Do a quick Google search of alcohol-related scientific studies and what do you find? It’s likely you’ll stumble across some amusing findings on the effects of alcohol on the human body. In one such study, published last year on bmj.com, doctors in Denmark disproved a popular Danish urban myth that said submerging feet in alcohol could get people drunk.
More common misconceptions about alcohol, though, still parade as fact. The California Aggie asked UC Davis experts to weigh in on some of the most persistent – though not entirely correct – assumptions many people make about alcohol.
Drinking beer causes the “beer belly.”
It turns out that your uncle Bob’s protruding gut is not directly linked to that can of Budweiser in his hands. UC Davis professor Charles Bamforth, an Anheuser-Busch endowed professor of malting and brewing sciences, said the infamous beer belly is a myth.
“The main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is the alcohol. It is all about calories in and calories out. If you burn off, by exercise, more calories than you consume, then you will not gain weight,” Bamforth said in an e-mail interview.
Beer itself, then, is not the only beer belly culprit. The weight gain associated with drinking seems to be more of a combination of factors including lack of exercise and that greasy fourth meal.
“Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear.”
This little rhyme has been passed on as a well-intentioned nugget of wisdom. Unfortunately, it is one rhyme that has no scientific merit.
Stephanie Lake, the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) coordinator, does not advise students to follow the scripture of this rhyme.
“[The rhyme] is cute but irrelevant. Stick to one kind [of alcohol] and don’t go back and forth,” Lake said.
Men and women of the same height and weight can drink the same.
While men and women may be equal in most activities, drinking is one area in which men, in general, do have the upper hand.
Holding the height and weight constant, women compared to men still have more body fat, which absorbs alcohol quicker, and less active alcohol-metabolizing enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenase.
In addition, women on their menstrual cycles or taking birth control pills are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, Lake said.
This would explain the higher alcohol tolerance in adult males compared to adult females. Binge drinking for adult males is considered five or more drinks while for adult females it is four or more drinks over a two-hour period.
Binge drinking occurs mostly on college campuses.
While binge drinking is known to happen during college, it is not as out of control as many believe. The most recent statistics found from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed about 70 percent of binge drinking episodes were among adults 26 years of age and older.
There are cures for hangovers.
It turns out commercialized hangover pills, aspirin, cold showers, coffee, exercise, greasy foods and your roommate’s blended potion are not hangover cures.
“The only thing that can cure a hangover is time,” Lake said.
Most hangover cures only benefit from the placebo effect, in which a person’s belief in the cure contributes to physical recovery.
In fact, some of the methods used as cures from hangovers can be dangerous or unhealthy for your body – many hangover pills are not regulated, cold showers can put the human body into shock and aspirin, like alcohol, is a blood thinner and can make people even groggier, Lake said.
So, in other words, there is no cure for hangovers. But if that In-N-Out double double makes you feel better, eat it. Just don’t give it all the credit.
JESSY WEI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.