Does organic alcohol reduce hangovers?

by Lifestyle

I’m never surprised the claims organics make for alcohol and food in general.  Any day I suspect someone will claim organics cure cancer and cause world peace.  In the case of a NY Daily News article , the author Sean Evans claims if you drink organic alcohol your hangover will be significantly reduced.  Here’s what is wrong with his claim.

The world's worst hangover could happen to you!

Will organic alcohol reduce your hangovers? Probably not.

What causes hangovers

Hangovers are caused by dehydration, the breakdown of ethanol, and natural by-products from the fermentation of the beverage.

Ethanol dehydrates your body.  When you drink a lot, you tend to urinate a lot.  The removal of water from your system causes headaches, nausea, and makes you tired.  The only possible way organic alcohol could have less of a dehydrating effect would be if it had less ethanol.  The author claimed he matched the alcohol content for his drinks in his experiment, so there should be no difference in the effect.

The source of ethanol (organic or non-organic) will not affect how your body breaks down the alcohol.  You body breaks down the ethanol into acetaldehyde and then into acetic acid.  If your body can’t keep up, you can get too much acetaldehyde (ethanal) in your system.  Acetaldehyde is mildly toxic and adds to your hangover.

The last possible cause for hangovers is probably the one cause “organic nuts” will point to as the difference.  Fusel alcohols and congeners can contribute hangovers.  In both cases, the type of beverage and the fermentation conditions will determine the amounts of these substances.  Fusel alcohols usually occur in beverages which are fermented at higher temperatures.  Congeners are the flavor, and if your alcohol has flavor your alcohol has congeners.  Since it is difficult to isolate which substances are contributing to your hangover, it is more likely the ethanol is putting the hurt on you the next morning.  Fusel alcohols and congeners will occur equally in organic and inorganic beverages.

In all of the above cases, organic and inorganic beverages will have the same effect.  If Evans understood how hangovers occur, he probably would not have made his claim organic alcohols are better for hangovers.

  • The amount of alcohol consumed and the rate of consumption will have the greatest affect on your next morning
  • Organic alcohols and non-organic alcohols are produced the from the same biological process
  • Dehydration is one of the most significant causes of hangovers

Is organic better tasting?

I have some doubts about this claim as well.  The article claims the test involved similar alcohol contents for the drinks, but doesn’t really say if the quality level is the same.  Anyone who has sampled cheap tequila and expensive tequila can tell you there is a huge difference in flavor, even if the alcohol content is the same.  Evans does mention he spent much less money on the inorganic drinks, so maybe he needs to drink similar quality beverages.  I’d like to see the list of what the author claimed were comparable liquors.

Another problem: taste is subjective.  Researchers have shown a more expensive labeled wine will taste better to the consumer than a cheaper labeled wine, even if both wines are exactly the same.  Evans knows the organic beverages are more expensive, and the brain can make you believe expensive is better.

  • An expensive bottle of wine will taste better than an cheap bottle, even if it is the same wine
  • The alcohol content alone does not determine the quality of the beverage

Anecdotal evidence and bad science

Another problem with his article is his experiment is based on anecdotal evidence.  Evans has two trials tested once (also known as a sample size of one) and comes to a silly conclusion.  To really make the test fair, he should have tested multiple times to see if the results can be completed.  I’m not sure how his head or liver would have held performing the experiment 100 times, but you need to reproduce the test repeatedly for the results to be valid.

Hangovers can last multiple days; one insane drunk had a 30-day hangover .  The order he tested is also suspect.  He tested the regular alcohol 2 days after going on a bender with the organic alcohol.  Again to be fair, he should have repeated the experiment at least a week later in the reverse order.

Evans should not know in advance which alcohols he is consuming.  All of the alcohols should be served in a blind test.  Knowing which alcohols (organic or inorganic) in advance biases his test.  Then again, the whole experiment started with a biased hypothesis.

I’m sure a truly scientific test was not what Evans intended when he set out on his experiment (I’m sure it was just for fun, and to con the newspaper into paying for two nights of drinking), but an entire article claiming pure silliness cannot go unchallenged.

  • Scientific tests should be repeatable and unbiased
  • Tests should be conducted blind, the tester should not know which alcohol was which

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!