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Scientists add electrolytes to beer in effort to create 'hangover-free' alcohol

Saturday, August 24, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: hangover, alcohol, electrolytes

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(NaturalNews) If you choose to imbibe a few beers or cocktails every now and then to take the edge off, staying hydrated and avoiding the ever-dreaded hangover the next day is often as simple as just following up with plenty of clean water and electrolyte-rich coconut water. Or you may eventually be able to try a new electrolyte-enhanced beer currently being developed by researchers from Australia who claim to have possibly found the holy grail for alcohol-induced dehydration.

After tinkering around with potential new ways to make beer more hydrating, a team of scientists from the Griffith University Health Institute found that simply adding electrolytes to beer may be the simplest and most effective method. That, and reducing the overall alcohol content of beer, according to reports, has been shown in tests to help reduce the incidence of hangovers and improve the hydrating potential of beer.

For their study, researchers modified two commercially-available beers, one labeled as regular and the other labeled as "light," by supplementing them with electrolyte compounds, which are found both naturally in foods like coconut water and synthetically in sports drinks like Gatorade. The team gave these electrolyte-enhanced beers to a group of volunteers who have just worked out at the health club, and evaluated fluid recovery and hydration levels compared to individuals given beer without electrolytes.

As expected, those who drank the electrolyte-enhanced beer fared the best in terms of overall re-hydration and recovery, while the regular beer drinkers experienced typical alcohol-induced dehydration. Comparatively, the group that experienced the most benefits was the one that drank the electrolyte-enhanced light beer, presumably due to the fact that it generally contains less alcohol content than regular beer.

"We basically manipulated the electrolyte levels of two commercial beers, one regular strength and one light beer, and gave it to research subjects who'd just lost a significant amount of sweat by exercising," says Ben Desbrow, an associate professor at Griffith and one of the lead authors of the study. "We then used several measures to monitor the participants' fluid recovery to the different beers."

"Of the four different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beer was by far the most well retained by the body, meaning it was the most effective at re-hydrating the subjects," he adds.

Creating 'healthier' alcohol more effective than telling people not to drink, say experts

Published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, the findings are especially promising for public health, as the team's electrolyte-enhanced beers reportedly taste the same as their regular counterparts. The Griffith team is also hopeful that the findings will lead to substantial improvements in the ways people choose to drink, as simply telling people not to drink in order to avoid health effects is typically ineffective.

"If you're going to live in the real world, you can either spend your time telling people what they shouldn't do, or you can work on ways of reducing the danger of some of these socialized activities," Desbrow is quoted as saying by numerous media reports about the implications of the study.

Others, however, dispute the study's findings, claiming that alcohol's metabolism byproducts, and not alcohol itself, are responsible for causing hangover headaches. Michael Oshinsky, Director of preclinical research at the Jefferson Headache Center in Pennsylvania, for instance, says acetate, which is enzymatically broken down from acetaldehyde within the body, is the real culprit responsible for hangovers.

"If you block the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde to acetate, you don't get a headache," Oshinsky is quoted as saying by ABC News.

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