Is drinking lighter colored alcoholic drinks an effective hangover prevention strategy?

Answer From Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Drinking lighter colored drinks isn't a good way to prevent a hangover, but it may help a little. In addition to alcohol, compounds linked to a hangover from alcoholic drinks include chemicals called congeners, which result from the fermenting process. Congeners give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and can contribute to hangovers or worsen their severity.

Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy, bourbon, darker beer and red wine, than they are in clear liquors, such as vodka, gin and lighter beers. One particular congener — methanol — breaks down into the toxins formaldehyde and formic acid, which can worsen a hangover.

While lighter colored drinks may slightly help to prevent a hangover, drinking too many alcoholic beverages of any color will still make you feel bad the morning after. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause dehydration, low blood sugar, digestive irritation and disturbed sleep — all factors that lead to hangover symptoms.

In several studies, no effective method of hangover prevention was found. The only sure way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation or not drink at all. For healthy adults, moderate drinking means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 or younger. Women who are or may be pregnant should not drink at all.

One drink is defined as:

  • 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer — about 5 percent alcohol
  • 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of malt liquor — about 7 percent alcohol
  • 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine — about 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits — about 40 percent alcohol

Be careful, though — some drinks may contain more alcohol than you realize. Often drinks are larger at bars and restaurants. And some drinks of the same size may contain more alcohol than others. For example, some light beers contain almost as much alcohol as regular beers, and some liquors contain a higher percentage of alcohol than others do.

Nov. 21, 2017 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  2. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  3. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  4. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  5. Antidepressants: Side effects
  6. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  7. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  8. Anxiety disorders
  9. Atypical antidepressants
  10. Supraventricular Tachycardia
  11. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  12. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  13. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  14. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  15. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  16. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  17. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  18. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  19. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  20. Dizziness
  21. Prickly pear cactus
  22. Fatigue
  23. Fish oil and depression
  24. Hangovers
  25. Headache
  26. Depression and diet
  27. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  28. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  29. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  30. Marijuana and depression
  31. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  32. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  33. Muscle pain
  34. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  35. Nausea and vomiting
  36. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  37. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  38. Red eye
  39. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  40. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  41. Tachycardia
  42. Treatment-resistant depression
  43. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  44. Vitamin B-12 and depression