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Colin MacKenzie M.D.
November 15, 2020

10 most common myths about alcohol

Here is an attempt to clear some of the common myths about alcohol and reveal the facts to help you make wise decisions regarding alcohol use.

Myth #1: Darker beverages are healthier

Fact: Red wine and other dark liquors such as whiskey and bourbon usually contain toxic chemicals, which can worsen the symptoms of a hangover.

Dark beers and wine have more flavonoids and polyphenols which can function as antioxidants and confer health benefits according to some studies. Resveritrol, one polyphenol that has received much attention latetly, is thought to increase high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and lower the “bad” cholesterol, or low-desity lipoproteins (LDL) and protect the inner lining of blood vessels.  However, darker liquors may also have a higher amount of congeners, which can be toxic to the body. These toxic chemicals are often by-products produced by the instruments and containers used during the fermentation process such as the barrels used to store whiskey and bourbon. These congeners are also the chemicals that give many hard liquors and dark beers their pigmentation.  Congeners can worsen the symptoms of a hangover to a great extent. Hence, to say that darker drinks are healthier than lighter alcohols is just a misconception as no one knows what the actual health outcomes are when all factors are considered. 

One research study demonstrated that people who drink bourbon experience worse hangover symptoms than those who drink an equal amount of vodka. [1]

Myth #2: Coffee can sober you up

Fact: coffer contains caffeine that does absolutely nothing to sober you up. It does not help your body to metabolize alcohol more quickly. 

This myth probably resides in the fact that caffeine, being a stimulant, can stimulate your brain and make you feel more alert. This might trick your brain into believing you are sober and make you less sensitive to your level of alcohol-induced impairment. However, you will still have the same amount of alcohol circulating in your bloodstream, thus keeping you drunk and with the same degree of neurological impairment. This is why using caffeine when intoxicated does not make you a safer driver. [2]

Myth #3: Throwing up will sober you quickly 

Fact: It is a common misconception that you can sober up more quickly if you vomit. However, the body absorbs alcohol quickly, about 30 minutes with an empty stomach and 90 minutes with food, and vomiting a few hours after consuming alcohol will do nothing to lessen your degree of intoxication. 

Myth #4: Everyone reacts the same way to the same amount of alcohol

Fact: Many people start drinking alcohol thinking that if another person can tolerate it, then they should be able to as well. 

However, the fact is that not everyone reacts to alcohol in the same way. 

There are several factors that can affect how your body reacts to alcohol. These factors include your body weight, gender, metabolism, and body chemistry.

Genetic factors may also play a role in determining your body’s reaction to alcohol and how vulnerable you would be to addiction. [3]

Myth #5: Older age can prevent addiction

Fact: Disorders linked to alcohol abuse are not dependant on the age of the person. They are rather dependant on the frequency and quantity of alcohol intake. Though alcoholism, and addictions in general, typically start in adolescence, addictions can also begin at a later point in life. 

Clinical research has revealed a steady rise in the incidence of alcohol use disorders in people above 65 years of age. Moreover, older people with alcohol use disorders have been found to be at a higher risk of suicidal tendencies than their younger counterparts. [4]

Conclusion

Being aware of the myths and misconceptions about alcohol intake will help you make the right decisions. 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674844
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621334
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3484320/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23101976
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15166636

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