The aching head. The queasy stomach. The inability to get out of bed. Anyone who imbibes knows what a hangover feels like, with 75% of alcohol consumers saying they have experienced at least one in their lifetime, and 15% admitting to symptoms at least once a month.
But thanks to Australian scientists, there might finally be a cure at hand. As reported by the Australian, Researchers at Griffith University’s Health Institute in Queensland say they have invented a more hydrating beer by adding electrolytes, compounds commonly used in sports drinks, to their brew.
The new creation provides a third more hydration than a normal beer, and this increased fluid retention should also help prevent hangovers the following day. The scientists did have to reduce some of the beer’s alcohol content to about 2.3% (versus 4.8% alcohol) for best results, but they report the additional ingredients do not affect its taste.
While less headaches in the morning are an obvious benefit to the researcher’s invention, that’s not what associate professor Ben Desbrow set out to solve when he began work on the project. Rather, the Desbrow was concerned for the welfare of laborers who ended a hard day’s work with a cold one.
“What we’ve found is that many people who sweat a lot, especially tradesmen, knock off work and have a beer,” Desbrow told the Australian Associated Press. “But alcohol in a dehydrated body can have all sorts of repercussions, including decreased awareness of risk.”
That’s where the scientists’ electrolyte-infused beer comes in. The researchers, who had their results published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, added electrolyte compounds to two commercial beers, one regular and one light, and then served the drinks to test subjects following a heavy workout. As a control, Desbrow also served some testers an unaltered version of the commercial beer.
The results showed the scientists might be on to something: “Of the four different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beer was by far the most well retained by the body, meaning it was the most effective at rehydrating the subjects,” said Desbrow.
So why will this new brew also help us avoid hangovers?
It turns out many of the symptoms we associate with having too much to drink are caused by too much urination. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it blocks the creation of a chemical that allows water to be re-absorbed back into our body. Instead, our kidneys send all water right to the bladder, eventually resulting in dehydration (and multiple bathroom trips).
Not only does this cause organs to steal water from the brain — contributing to morning-after headaches — but it also causes the body to lose nutrients like potassium and sodium that are responsible for healthy cell function. An absence of these electrolyte elements causes headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The researchers’ new beer should help alleviate these symptoms by replenishing those compounds.
Of course, most certain way to avoid alcohol related dehydration is to just not drink as much. But Desbrow knows that’s a tough sell to many beer fans, and hopes his creation will help where well-meaning advice could not.
“If you’re going to live in the real world, you can either spend your time telling people what they shouldn’t do, or you can work on ways of reducing the danger of some of these socialised activities,” says Desbrow.