Quest to brew beer that soothes your hangover

DRINK DANGER?  Never likely to be a health drink, beer could be developed to at least lessen the hangover.

DRINK DANGER? Never likely to be a health drink, beer could be developed to at least lessen the hangover.

Australia researchers have embarked on the most noble of quests - to develop a beer that allows you to drink more while minimising your hangover. 

Previous research has established the importance of electrolytes in aiding hydration, but in the context of alcoholic beverages, scientific knowledge was less clear.

But Ben Desbrow, an associate professor at Griffith University who is leading the studies, said his researchers have shown that adding sodium (an electrolyte) to low- or mid-strength beer improves fluid retention, meaning the body stays better hydrated.

Improved hydration would potentially improve cognitive function after drinking, and could even reduce an imbiber's suffering the next day, he said. Beer might be a liquid but that does not mean it keeps the body well-supplied with water.

"Beer itself is not what I would call a dehydrator, but it's a very poor rehydrator," Desbrow said.

"You lose the majority of the fluid that you bring in. It doesn't cause you to lose further fluid, but you just don't get any benefit from the drinks that you're having."


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Maintaining hydration while imbibing is important, especially for those who may have exerted themselves before or during their night out, perhaps on the dancefloor.

The team's earlier studies, in which sodium (an electrolyte) was added to participants' alcoholic drinks, showed electrolytes assisted hydration in low-alcohol beer, but had no significant effect in full-strength beer.

But at low strengths, the effect of adding sodium was more pronounced than reducing alcohol concentration by a small amount, the study showed.

The 12 male participants were made to exercise before drinking various strengths of beer. The light beers contained two different doses of sodium - those with the higher dose had "significantly lower" urine output following the drinking session, and their "significantly higher" net body mass showed they had retained more liquid.

The study used a "repeated measures design"; each volunteer participated in four separate trials. The results were published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.


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Now, in order to get the balance right between function and taste, the researchers want to survey regular beer drinkers to better understand how and why people consume the amber ale.

"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 said.

Any resulting product would not be a miracle-product, but might provide a safer alternative for drinkers.

"We're on a bit of a harm-minimisation strategy," he said. "We're not saying this will ever be the ideal rehydration solution."

The Griffith University survey is available here.

 - Brisbane Times

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