The Darker the Alcohol, the Worse the Hangover?

The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

The current body of research does not provide strong evidence to support the claim that the color of alcohol is a significant factor in hangover severity. Factors such as the rate of alcohol metabolism, inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, and individual psychological coping strategies appear to play more substantial roles. Further research is needed to explore the potential impact of alcohol type, including color, on hangover experiences.


Hangovers are a common aftermath of alcohol consumption, characterized by a range of physical and cognitive symptoms. The severity of a hangover can be influenced by various factors, including the type of alcohol consumed. This article explores the relationship between alcohol type, particularly the color of the alcohol, and hangover severity.

Alcohol Metabolism and Hangover Severity

The metabolism of alcohol involves its conversion to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase, followed by further metabolism to acetate by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This process can contribute to hangover symptoms. A study on red ginseng’s effects on alcohol metabolism showed that it could alleviate hangover symptoms by influencing alcohol levels in the blood1. However, the type of alcohol consumed was not specifically linked to hangover severity in this study.

Incidence and Covariates of Hangover

Research investigating the incidence of hangover after moderate alcohol consumption found that hangover was reported by 76% of participants, but the type of alcoholic beverage was not associated with the incidence of hangover2. This suggests that factors other than the color of the alcohol may play a more significant role in whether an individual experiences a hangover.

Inflammatory Response and Oxidative Stress of Hangover

The inflammatory response to alcohol and oxidative stress are important determinants of hangover severity. Biomarkers such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were positively correlated with hangover severity3. While these findings are crucial, they do not directly address the impact of alcohol color on hangover severity.

Hangover Symptoms and Their Contribution

A study exploring the presence and severity of hangover symptoms found that drowsiness and cognitive problems were the most dominant features of alcohol hangover4. The research did not differentiate between different types of alcohol, suggesting that the color of the alcohol might not be the primary factor in symptom severity.

Urine Ethanol Concentration and Hangover Severity

The relationship between urine ethanol concentration and hangover severity was examined, revealing that higher urine ethanol levels were associated with more severe hangover symptoms5. However, the study did not differentiate between different types of alcohol, making it difficult to draw conclusions about the role of alcohol color.

Alcohol Metabolism in Hangover Pathology

Fast elimination of ethanol from the body is associated with experiencing less severe hangovers6. This study emphasizes the rate of alcohol metabolism rather than the type or color of alcohol consumed.

Reconsidering the BAC Threshold for Hangovers

The suitability of a specific blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold as an indicator for hangover development has been questioned7. This research suggests that subjective intoxication levels, rather than the type of alcohol consumed, are more important in determining hangover severity.

Ethanol Elimination Rate and Hangover Severity

A faster ethanol elimination rate is associated with less severe hangovers8. This finding is consistent with the idea that metabolic factors, rather than the specific type of alcohol, are more influential in hangover experiences.

Temporal Typology of Alcohol Hangover

Individual differences in hangover typology were identified, with three common temporal patterns related to the amount of alcohol consumed and the presence and severity of different hangover symptoms9. The study did not find a direct link between alcohol color and hangover severity.

Pain Catastrophising and Hangover Symptoms

Pain catastrophising, a cognitive coping strategy, was found to predict hangover severity and symptoms10. This suggests that psychological factors may also influence the experience of a hangover, independent of the type of alcohol consumed.


The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Kelly Courtney has answered Likely

An expert from University of California, San Diego in Psychology, Neuroscience

There has been a substantial amount of research to support the idea that drinking alcohol high in congeners, which tend to be higher in darker alcohol, increases the likelihood and severity of hangover symptoms experienced the next day. However, additional research suggests that at least some of the commonly experienced hangover symptoms may be attributed to other mechanisms such as the effects of alcohol itself or alcohol metabolites. For example, headaches following alcohol use can often be attributed to alcohol-induced vasodilation. In addition, other factors appear to influence these biological processes, leading to great variability in hangover experiences from person to person. These factors include alcoholism vulnerability, use of other psychoactive substances at the same time as alcohol, and other psychosocial factors such as alcohol expectancies or what someone expects to feel like the next day. In summary, although it is likely drinking darker alcohol high in congeners will increase your risk for a more severe hangover the next day, it is definitely not the whole story.


The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Jacob Peter Hartmann has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of Copenhagen in Cardiology, Physiology

The quick and simple answer is yes! Researchers have performed a clinical study comparing hangovers after drinking bourbon versus vodka. The study showed that the hangover was worse after drinking bourbon. The main reason is believed to be the relatively larger amount of methanol in the darker alcohols like bourbon, which is metabolized into formaldehyde and formic acid which is really toxic for the body. But don’t forget that you still get a severe state of hangover when bingedrinking- even if the alchohol is light.


The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Richard Stephens has answered Near Certain

An expert from Keele University in Psychology

There is a generally held view that the darker alcoholic drinks such as red wine, whiskey and rum, produce more severe hangovers than transparent drinks like vodka, white rum and gin. There is some truth in this because darker beverages generally have greater concentrations of congenors compared with lighter coloured drinks. Congenors are complex organic molecules that are found in alcoholic drinks either as a result of the fermentation and ageing processes, when organic materials derived from the grapes or grains used as ingredients breakdown. It has been estimated that bourbon has 37 times the amount of congeners as vodka. In a recent study Damaris Rohesnow and her colleagues got 45 volunteers to drink bourbon on one occasion, and vodka on another, while an additional 45 volunteers drank placebo beverages consisting of chilled caffeine-free cola mixed with de-carbonated tonic water with a few drops of vodka or bourbon floated on top. The amount of alcohol they had was 1.2 g/kg, which is equivalent to 6 bottles of beer for a person weighing 70kg. The next morning participants completed a hangover symptom questionnaire. Hangover symptoms were greater after alcohol compared with placebo, but crucially, they showed higher symptom scores after the congenor rich bourbon compared with vodka. Link to study described:


The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Dirk Lachenmeier has answered Unlikely

An expert from Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Agency Karlsruhe in Food Science, Oncology, Toxicology, Chemistry

I actualy disagree with the other experts that the amount of congeners has anything to do with colour. These are two independent variables and colour often comes from artificial sources (caramel colours etc). There are white, clear spirits such as fruit spirits, which may have extreme congener contents, and some dark spirits such as coloured rum or (gold) tequila with considerably less.


The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover?

Charles Parry has answered Unlikely

An expert from South African Medical Research Council in Epidemiology

I would have said that ethanol is ethanol and that the colour makes no difference. However, there does seem to be a theory that darker alcohol is more harmful because of other chemicals known as congeners which are more likely to occur in darker drinks.

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