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Which gives you a worse hangover

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Fact Buster Q: Which gives you a worse hangover - red or white wine? A: Either, if you drink too much, but red wine and other dark coloured drinks contain more congeners that can make a hangover worse.

Our expert: Steve Allsop

Published 04/10/2007


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Hangovers are awful, some so bad that you vow never to touch another drink again, but is the secret to avoiding a hangover as simple as changing the alcohol you drink?

Not surprisingly the answer isn't simple, while the type of alcohol you drink can have an effect on how rotten you feel the next day it's not the biggest factor.

Professor Steve Allsop, from the National Drug Research Institute in Perth, says different types of alcohol can make your hangover worse – this is due to a number of things including congeners. Congeners contribute to the colour and flavour of alcoholic drinks, those that are higher in congeners are darker in colour. For example, brandy has more congeners than vodka, wine tends to have more congeners than clear spirits and red wine has more congeners than white wine.

Congeners are a toxic byproduct of the fermenting process in some alcohols, as the body processes congeners, toxins are created – these make you feel unwell. How rotten you feel depends on the amount of congeners you've consumed.

Allsop says some people may also have a reaction to certain components and additives in alcohol, for example the histamines in red wine can make some people who suffer hayfever feel miserable. Preservatives and colourings can also give you a nasty hangover if your body cannot tolerate them.

But congeners or no congeners, the main factors in determining whether you get a hangover are how much you drink, how quickly you drink and how effectively your body metabolises alcohol.

Hangovers are your body's message that you've had too much alcohol. You can lessen the impact of a hangover by taking simple measures such as not drinking on an empty stomach and drinking enough water throughout the night and the next day, but the best way of avoiding a hangover and potential long-term damage from alcohol is to only drink small amounts in the first place.

Read our alcohol fact file for more information about how alcohol affects your body and recommended alcohol limits.

Professor Steve Allsop is the director of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University of Technology in Perth. Professor Allsop was interviewed by Claudine Ryan.

Professor Steve Allsop is the director of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University of Technology in Perth.

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