Scientists investigating the truth of the old saying “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer” have concluded it is a myth.
Researchers gave alcoholic drinks to 90 volunteers as they sought to examine the “influence of the combination and order of beer and wine consumption on hangover intensity”.
Volunteers were split into three groups, with the first drinking around two and a half pints of beer followed by four large glasses of white wine.
The second group had the same amount of alcohol but in reverse order, and subjects in the third, control group had either only beer or only wine.
Participants, several of whom vomited, were asked about their hangover the following day and given a score on a so-called Acute Hangover Scale, based on factors including thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, increased heart rate and loss of appetite.
The volunteers, aged between 19 and 40, were asked about their well-being at regular intervals and kept under medical supervision overnight.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicate that no matter how you order your drinks, if you drink too much you are still likely to be ill.
“Using white wine and lager beer, we didn’t find any truth in the idea that drinking beer before wine gives you a milder hangover than the other way around,” said first author Joran Kochling from Germany’s Witten/Herdecke University.
“The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover.
“The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick.
“We should all pay attention to these red flags when drinking.”
Old folk wisdom such as “Grape or grain, but never the twain” exists in several languages.
To test the adages the study used a crossover, in which participants in study groups one and two were switched to the opposite drinking order a week later.
Control group subjects who drank only beer the first time around received only wine on the second study day, and vice versa.
This way, the groups were not only compared with each other, but each participant was their own control too.
Dr Kai Hensel, a senior clinical fellow at Cambridge University and senior author of the study, said: “Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: they are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behaviour.
“In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes.”
Asked about the reasons for conducting the study, he said: “Firstly, a clear result in favour of one particular order could help to reduce hangovers and help many people have a better day after a night out – though we encourage people to drink responsibly.
“Unfortunately, we found that there was no way to avoid the inevitable hangover just by favouring one order over another.
“But this study was also about showing, in a public-friendly manner, how a rigorously conducted study can provide a solid answer to a specific question and be engaging at the same time.
“We hope it will help inspire the next generation of young doctors and researchers to be engaged in a research-driven environment.”