Tag Archives: drinking

Finally, Some Beer in The Lab

We’ve been hearing for years about all the alleged health benefits of red wine, but researchers have left that other historic beverage largely untouched. I’m talking, of course, about beer. It’s not surprising – despite being one of the oldest human inventions and probably a major driving force in the formation of civilization, beer gets no respect. Now, though, a team from Belgium (perhaps the greatest beer-making culture in the world, by the way) has started to remedy that. As they explain in their paper:

Recent evidence suggests that hops-derived compounds positively impact adipocyte metabolism and glucose tolerance in obese and diabetic rodents via undefined mechanisms. In this study, we found that administration of tetrahydro iso-alpha acids (termed META060) to high-fat diet (HFD)-fed obese and diabetic mice for 8 weeks reduced body weight gain, the development of fat mass, glucose intolerance, and fasted hyperinsulinemia, and normalized insulin sensitivity markers.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are an herb that serves as the main bittering agent in most beers, and the HFD mouse model is what happens when you put an ordinary lab mouse on an American-type diet. Apparently, the former can counteract some of the effects of the latter.

While I love my burgers and beer, though, we should take these new data with a dash of salt. The treatment in this paper consisted of spiking the animals’ high-fat food with 0.1 percent of the alpha acid analog these researchers are studying. Hops vary in their alpha acid concentrations, but even if you drink a strong IPA hopped with good Chinook and Cascade strains, your diet would have to be mostly beer to reach these levels. The same could be said about most red wine studies to date; the resveratrol that supposedly provides many of wine’s benefits is actually present in minuscule quantities in a typical glass of Merlot.

Nonetheless, I think there’s enough data here to warrant more research on beer. So let’s raise a glass to that.

Shocking: Popular Music Mentions Booze, Sex

In a surprising new development, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh report that the modern “rock” and “rap” music popular with adolescents makes repeated references to alcohol, sex, and drugs. As this important new paper concludes:

One in five songs sampled from US popular music had explicit references to alcohol, and one-quarter of these mentioned a specific alcohol brand. These alcohol brand appearances are associated commonly with a luxury life-style characterized by wealth, sex, partying and other drugs.

I am frankly shocked. Clearly, we need to restrict our kids’ access to this corrosive new music. Instead, they should experience the wholesome, safe and healthy lifestyles promoted in the classic songs and music videos my generation grew up on. This one, for example:

What Tsunami?

It looks like Massachusetts held true to form: our governor and all of our House representatives will remain Democrats, a big tax rollback initiative lost by a comfortable margin, and we still favor affordable housing. We did, however, cut the tax on alcohol. Big, liberal government is fine with us, but don’t mess with our liquor.

What about Scotch and Beer?

George Thorogood and John Lee Hooker should take note:

Many alcoholic beverages contain byproducts of the materials used in the fermenting process. These byproducts are called “congeners,” complex organic molecules with toxic effects including acetone, acetaldehyde, fusel oil, tannins, and furfural. Bourbon has 37 times the amount of congeners that vodka has. A new study has found that while drinking a lot of bourbon can cause a worse hangover than drinking a lot of vodka, impairment in people’s next-day task performance is about the same for both beverages.

Turning to the article itself, we learn the gory details:

Methods: Healthy heavy drinkers age 21 to 33 (n = 95) participated in 2 drinking nights after an acclimatization night. They drank to a mean of 0.11 g% breath alcohol concentration on vodka or bourbon one night with matched placebo the other night, randomized for type and order. Polysomnography recordings were made overnight; self-report and neurocognitive measures were assessed the next morning.

You can get placebo bourbon? I certainly hope it’s labeled more clearly than decaffeinated coffee.

Results: After alcohol, people had more hangover and more decrements in tests requiring both sustained attention and speed. Hangover correlated with poorer performance on these measures. Alcohol decreased sleep efficiency and rapid eye movement sleep, and increased wake time and next-day sleepiness. Alcohol effects on sleep correlated with hangover but did not mediate the effects on performance. No effect of beverage congeners was found except on hangover severity, with people feeling worse after bourbon. Virtually no sex differences appeared.

That’s weird – I always notice sex differences after drinking.

Conclusions: As drinking to this level affects complex cognitive abilities, safety could be affected, with implications for driving and for safety-sensitive occupations. Congener content affects only how people feel the next day so does not increase risk. The sleep disrupting effects of alcohol did not account for the impaired performance so other mechanisms of effect need to be sought. As hangover symptoms correlate with impaired performance, these might be contributing to the impairment.

So there it is: either liquor gives you a hangover, but to minimize the pain, stick with vodka. For blues singers, though, the goal may be to maximize the pain.