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Alcohol myths: proof or fiction?

By Marcus Torrey

Jan. 26, 2011 1:36 a.m.

MYTH 1: Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear

This popular alcohol-related axiom, along with its counterpart “Beer before liquor, never been sicker,” is common advice among college drinkers.

However, these sayings may not be as helpful as students think, said Dr. Scott Friedman, director of the Alcoholic Liver Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

“There’s no science behind these kinds of myths,” he said. “It’s not the form of alcohol, but the absolute amount of ethanol you drink.”

While the saying may not be true, the sickness that results from drinking beer before liquor is a real consequence for some people. This could be an indication of an unknown allergy to an ingredient in beer not present in hard liquor, said Julia Chester, associate professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University. People might drink more beer overall if beer consumption comes before hard liquor, and they might attribute their subsequent sickness to the order in which they drank, Chester said.

MYTH 2: Red wine is healthy for the heart

While it is more common to hear about the health risks associated with alcohol, red wine has been touted as a potentially beneficial drink when consumed in moderation.

Red wine contains a chemical called resveratrol, which is correlated with cardiovascular longevity in animal studies, said Dr. Alison Moore, professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA.

However, Moore said the concentration of resveratrol in red wine is likely too low to be beneficial for humans.

But Moore said liquor in general has been noted to have some favorable health effects.

Middle-aged and older people who consume one drink a day have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, blood clots or diabetes.

This is because small amounts of alcohol can raise the body’s levels of good cholesterol to protect against heart disease, Moore said.

Research has shown these effects are more prominent in people who consume one drink a day, rather than those who abstain from alcohol, or those who consume more than one drink a day, she added.

Despite these beneficial effects, Moore said college-aged people likely won’t experience any health benefits from drinking because most are not at risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

*MYTH 3: Hangover cures”

If you’re tired of nursing that morning hangover, there may be measures that can help.

Moore said there are no true hangover cures, but there are hangover prevention techniques.

The most effective prevention method is drinking on a full stomach to increase absorption and lower blood alcohol concentration.

Staying hydrated throughout a night of drinking will help increase urination, which also reduces the amount of alcohol in the body, Moore said.

Painkillers are a common treatment for hangovers. But according to Moore, the medicine can cause liver and stomach damage if there are still large amounts of alcohol present in the body.

With reports by Samantha Masunaga, Bruin senior staff.

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