Maybe you eat a big meal. Maybe you drink a pot of coffee or guzzle water. But when it comes to preventing hangovers, you may be wasting your time.
New research found — perhaps to the disappointment of some — that the only surefire way to prevent hangovers is to drink less alcohol.
"We have been working with Canadian and Dutch students on this issue. In general, we found a pretty straight relationship; the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover," explained lead author Joris Verster, PhD, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, in a news release. "The majority of those who in fact reported never having a hangover tended to drink less, perhaps less than they themselves thought would lead to a hangover."
In one study, Dr. Verster and colleagues asked 789 Canadian college students about the time they drank the most during the past month. These researchers used the students' information — like the number of drinks and the time frame — to calculate an estimated peak blood alcohol content (BAC) level during the night of drinking.
The majority (79 percent) of the students who said they were immune to hangovers probably drank much less than they thought, these researchers found. The students had average estimated peak BACs of below 0.10 percent. By comparison, in the group of students whose estimated peak BAC was 0.20 percent or higher, there were almost no claims of hangover immunity.
For reference, many US states set the drunk driving BAC limit at 0.08 percent.
In another study, Dr. Verster and team asked 826 Dutch students whether they ate food or drank water after their last heavy drinking session — to see whether these practices reduced hangovers. The researchers saw no significant difference in hangover rates between those who ate or drank water after drinking and those who did not.
"Those who took food or water showed a slight statistical improvement in how they felt over those who didn't, but this didn't really translate into a meaningful difference," Dr. Verster explained. "From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol."
These studies were presented Aug. 28 at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Amsterdam. Studies presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed. No funding information or conflicts of interest were disclosed.