Myths about alcohol are as abundant as the substance itself, with widely-touted rumours on everything from ways to instantly sober up, craftily beat a Breathalyser test or magically cure a hangover. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction. While alcohol companies often churn out ads promising rebellion, excitement and sex appeal with your next swig, urban legends circulate on the other extreme, linking alcohol with everything from brain cell damage to beer bellies.
Here’s a look at some common alcohol myths.
Myth: Taking an aspirin before drinking will prevent a hangover
Fact: In reality, the opposite is true. Research shows that aspirin actually increases the amount of alcohol that ends up in your system, which makes you get drunk quicker—and stay drunk longer. In addition, mixing aspirin and booze can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding
Drinking after taking acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, can be even worse and may even lead to liver damage—so it’s best to heed the warning labels on the bottles for over-the-counter medications!
Myth: Sucking on copper coins will trick a breathalyser
Fact: People who wish to put themselves and others in harm’s way by driving drunk should know that stuffing a handful of coins in their mouths once they get pulled over will not help them evade responsibility. The theory is that copper from a coin will absorb ethanol. But even if that were the case, coins these days have very little copper—only 2.5 per cent since 1982, according to the US Mint. And even if you found a stash of old coins, or a magical substance that absorbs alcohol, it still won’t do the trick. Police officers actually wait 15 minutes before they have you take the Breathalyser test, and they’ll also check your mouth to make sure nothing could throw off the results. And the test measures air deep within your lungs—so even if any of these tricks actually had an effect on the air in your mouth, they still wouldn’t trick the Breathalyser.
Myth: Drinking too much will give you a beer belly.
Fact: This much is true—drinking beer excessively can certainly lead to weight gain. But the extra pounds won’t necessarily gravitate towards your belt line, according to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Although beer consumption did lead to increased waist circumference—which was closely related to overall weight gain—including bigger hips as well as a wider waistline. And a 2003 study indicated that a big gut has a lot to do with genetics, which can dictate where those extra pounds end up.
Myth: Adults of the same height can drink the same amount
Fact: Women actually process alcohol much differently than men—even when controlling for size. Men are generally leaner than women, but both genders have roughly the same size liver. This means that women clear more alcohol per unit of lean body mass than men do, releasing it into the bloodstream quicker. More alcohol in the blood means women get drunk faster, and it also leads to another problem. Women have way less of the enzymes that break down alcohol in their blood, making it nearly impossible to go shot for shot with even their smallest male drinking buddy without getting far more wasted.