Ok, so we all know that mixing pop rocks and Coke won’t make your stomach explode. If you eat a watermelon seed, your tummy won’t sprout a tree. Yet some urban legends are more persistent — questions that no one seems to know how to ask, much less answer, and that have circulated unresolved around Yale for years. Some of them involve issues dear to our hearts, like getting high, getting rid of hangovers, and counting calories.
Myth one: “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.”
Carbonation is known to speed up the absorption of alcohol, according to information on the Radford University and Michigan State University Web pages. Therefore, the ingredients in mixed drinks will affect the way they are processed — scotch and soda is more devastating than scotch and water. Fruit juices slow the absorption of alcohol, so drinks mixed in juice have slower effects, on a relative scale.
There is no clear scientific research on the topic, but in terms of the order of drinks, the carbonation in beer will make the absorption of the hard alcohol to follow more rapid — thus, “couldn’t be sicker.” In addition, in mixing liquor types, it is possible that an allergy to one of the many ingredients in a variety of alcohol types consumed in one night might lead to an undesirable result. Beer might set off someone’s wheat allergy, or liquor might set off corn or rye allergies. But while it is not a great idea to mix alcohol types, the issue is really about how much you drink and what you drink.
Myth two: “Drinks of the same proof cause the same hangover.”
In reality, the color of your drink is thought to be crucial to how much you suffer from it.
Congeners — organic compounds in alcohol responsible for color, smell and taste — have been linked to hangovers. Dark liquors, such as brandy and whiskey, contain lots of congeners; red wine has more than white.
An exhaustive study of the effects of drinking, “The Alcohol Hangover,” was published in 2000 and co-authored by Jeffrey Wiese, professor and hangover expert at Tulane University. The study found that hangovers are less associated with transparent liquors.
“Congeners — increase the frequency and severity of hangover,” reads the study. “Clear liquors, such as rum, vodka, and gin, tend to cause hangover less frequently, which may explain why patients with chronic alcoholism use these liquors disproportionately.”
A controlled study of bourbon against vodka echoed these results. Wiese’s study cites a 1965 study that reported approximately 10 times the number of patients who consumed bourbon in amounts proportionate to their body weight developed hangovers when compared to those drinking vodka.
This doesn’t mean grain alcohol, transparent as it is, is a good idea. Purity should also be factored into the hangover severity, as any freshman who has ever had the pleasure of drinking Dubra or Aristocrat vodka already knows.
Wiese’s study references a second study in which subjects were given beverages of varying purity, none of which were alcoholic. Those participants given drinks with impurities like those found in cheap liquor got a hangover, despite the fact they had consumed no alcohol.
Myth three: The herbal cure for a hangover
Etymologically, a form of the word for hangover, veisalgia (“alcohol hangover”), results from the Norwegian kveis, “uneasiness following debauchery,” and the Greek algia, “pain”.
Scientifically, hangovers result from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which leave revelers thirsty, weak, feeling dried out, lightheaded and dizzy the morning after. Alcohol can also irritate the stomach and intestines, which can lead to pain, nausea and vomiting. Low blood sugar can lead to fatigue and weakness.
There are theories about an herbal remedy. No, not the “herbal remedy” that I’ll cover next. A legal herb: the much touted “hangover pill.” However, there is no official research on this one. It seems to be supported or attacked based on anecdotal evidence.
According to the website for the Perfect Equation, a company that produces Hangover Prevention Formula, the secret ingredient to their hangover magic was found a few years ago by French researchers in a Prickly Pear Cactus. Obviously, it is not the same ingredient as is in the prickly pear margaritas at Roomba.
This dietary supplement does not profess to prevent drunkenness, just its after-effects. Some Yale students swear by them. But note, this formulation includes vitamin B, which may account for any hangover-beating effects it does have.
“[Vitamin B6] is the only known product demonstrated to improve hangover by a randomized, blinded trial,” Wiese said in “The Alcohol Hangover”. He also said, however, it may only be truly useful to the vitamin deficient.
The real verdict about hangovers seems to be the same as that about pregnancy — the only way to be sure is to abstain.
But for those who choose to take the plunge, the approaches to hangovers are varied. And though some of you might like the “second day of Harvard-Yale approach” (a.k.a. “drink more”), the common advice offered by many physicians, including those at the NIH, is to consume sports drinks and fruit juice both during and after drinking to help with dehydration. Headache medicine should be avoided, because it may worsen nausea, especially Tylenol which can be toxic when metabolized in the liver, according to Dr. Guadelupe Garcia-Tsao, professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.
And take your vitamins.
Myth four: “Pot is not addictive.”
Some say college is the time to weed out the slackers. Other say college is the time for the slackers to break out the weed. Whichever school of thought you’re a part of, there is a reigning conception that weed is not addictive in the traditional sense. A Yale student who smokes marijuana recreationally said pot is part of an addictive lifestyle and social life, and is less of a physical concern.
“People use it like they use food or other drugs, to keep their mind off stuff, and then it’s a vicious cycle,” the student said. “As for me, I think it is bad that I sometimes go smoke when I have other shit to do, to forget that I have that shit — It is very much a cultural thing and a social thing, and sometimes people are just friends because they both smoke. So basically, you have to keep smoking otherwise, what do you have in common — I routinely go weeks without it, but I have plenty of friends who smoke everyday.”
However, medical research begs to differ, according to Dr. Kathleen Carroll, professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.
“Depending on the individual, and how long and how much they smoke, marijuana use can indeed lead to dependence, where people who try to stop can experience a withdrawal syndrome, find it very hard to stop or cut down their marijuana use, and find that more marijuana is needed to achieve the same effects,” Carroll said via e-mail. “Moreover, recent evidence has also shown that marijuana use can lead to serious health consequences, including problems with cognitive functioning such as marijuana dependence.”
A large-scale study conducted in 2001, called the “National Household Survey on Drug Abuse,” found that about 5.6 million Americans aged 12 and above had problems with illicit drug use in the past year. More than 2 million of these met criteria for dependence on marijuana. Five years ago, 220,000 people entering drug abuse treatment programs were addicted to marijuana.
Studies at numerous medical schools and departments of psychiatry have shown that habitual users experienced irritability, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and aggressive behavior after quitting.
Smoking up can also heighten other addictions — junk food aside. According to a study done in 2002 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicin
e, marijuana use can make it increasingly difficult to stop smoking cigarettes.
Myth five: “Pot is natural.”
Here lies another misconception — that smoking pot isn’t harmful. Its other name is, after all, “grass.” But inhaling anything but natural air is not a good thing. According to a study conducted at the University of California School of Medicine, many marijuana smokers had many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, including daily cough, and a heightened risk of lung infections. Other studies have shown that the drug makes it more difficult to fend off basic infections.
Research at the University of Miami showed smoking pot has been linked to a higher incidence of lung cancer in young people. In fact, the National Institutes of Health Web site suggests that because of these studies and others, and the simple fact that while smoking marijuana, smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold the breath longer, pot can potentially be a larger cancer threat than cigarettes.
Not to ruin your high or anything, but this is the truth.
Myth six: The negative calorie
No one is safe from the freshman 15. According to many woefully misled co-ed, eating low-calorie foods like celery actually causes you to lose weight while eating, because digestion burns more calories than the food contributes. This myth is false, according to Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders and professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale School of Medicine.
“Not true. These foods are generally low in calories and the body does use more energy digesting them than it does for foods containing simple sugars, but they still have calories,” Brownell said in an e-mail. “Theoretically, one could gain weight eating such foods, but the amounts would have to be very large.”
Susann Kraska, nutritionist at Yale-New Haven Hospital said while vegetables are the healthiest foods, they do not work calorie magic.
“You do take some energy to digest the foods, but I wouldn’t say it has a negative calorie effect,” Kraska said. “Vegetables, in general, are going to be lower in calories than fruits and meats. Usually I tell my patients they can eat as many vegetables as they want. But I wouldn’t — say it’s negative calories.”
Myth seven: “Harvard sucks and Princeton doesn’t matter.”
This one’s easy. 100% scientifically proven and FDA approved, true. Except for the Princeton thing. No one checked into that. Because no one cared.