Science | Drink myths busted

Whether it’s an Otley Run, club night or just a quiet night down the pub it’s fair to say that most students will end up drinking some kind of alcohol this Freshers’ Week. LS Science takes some of the most common myths you’ll hear about booze and puts them to the test.

Diet drinks are better for your health

Diet drinks contain fewer calories and are therefore better on your waistline but what is actually in them?

A can of fizzy drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar, but what are the effects of sweeteners used in diet alternatives? The few studies that have been done have found that in the short term opting for a diet fizzy drink will lower blood sugar levels and help weight loss. However, some studies show they can actually lead to us eventually overindulging and therefore take in more energy thus putting on weight. Links have also been made between diet drinks and cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks and issues with kidney functioning.

The calories in alcohol are from sugar

Alcohol is commonly believed to contain sugar but it’s actually an organic compound that is broken down causing ATP, the body’s energy, to be produced. Because this energy is additional to what is needed for normal function it gets stored typically as fat, leading to that beer belly.

Would it be possible to replace food with alcohol to provide energy? As great as that would be, the answer is definitely no. Food allows the ‘full’ signal to be sent to the brain preventing overindulgence. This is often why we feel the need to eat after drinking because our brains know we aren’t full, also contributing to weight gain.

The most important thing is to ensure you eat normally during the day as this will generally make you less likely to go for that kebab later in the evening. If you do have to eat something when you get back from your night out, opt for a banana or piece of bread as these will be easier for the body to breakdown.

Red wine migraine

Red wine is notorious for its hangovers, leaving you the colour of beetroot, with purple creases at the sides of your mouth and stained teeth. With up to 200 per cent more histamines than white wine, red wine is saturated with these compounds, which are often found to be the cause of flushing. It also contains a high concentration of tannins. These flavonoids give wine its bitter taste and serve in aging the wine by preventing its breakdown by oxidation. Tannins are well known to aid the release of serotonin, a powerful neurotransmitter which puts you in a better mood. However, when too much serotonin is released it leads to a depressed mood the next day which can intensify the effects of a hangover.

Mixing drinks is dangerous

“Don’t mix the grape and grain”, “Liquor then beer, have no fear”. There are many of these rhymes that are part of our vernacular but little evidence to back them up. Whilst we are continually told not to mix drinks, once drunk it can become very hard not to. It is unlikely the actual mixing of the different types of alcohol is really the cause of the hangover, it’s much more likely to­ be psychological. Should you start the night on a low weight beer, your rate of consumption would be much greater than if you had started on a neat 90 per cent proof rum. After two or three pints you will have become accustomed to that rate of consumption. Moving on to wine (triple the strength), you’re unlikely to drop your drinking rate by as much, consuming far more booze than you anticipated.


Scout Davies and Henry Beach

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