Final word on alcohol for 2021 and tips on avoiding hangovers

As we prepare to see off what has been another very ordinary year, largely ruined by coronavirus yet again, you could be forgiven for ringing in the new year a little too hard.

But if you do choose to overindulge, what are you likely doing to your body and what can you do to avoid a hangover?

Here, we’ll look back at what some of the research on alcohol consumption showed us in 2021, before finishing with our top tips to avoid a hangover this New Year’s Day.

Read: What happens when alcohol and anxiety mix?

Older Aussies love a drink
Older Australians are much more likely to drink excessively than the general population.

In the middle of the year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) report, Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Australia, provided some sobering statistics about the rates of problem drinking among older Australians.

It found that people aged 70 and over are the most likely of all ages to drink daily (12.6 per cent of the population), followed by people in their 60s (9.6 per cent) and 50s (7.3 per cent) with more males than females represented in all age groups.

The data also showed that the tendency to drink to excess may begin in the late 40s before ramping up once people reach their 50s.

Australia’s reputation for being a nation of drinkers was also confirmed in the Global Drug Survey, which showed that out of 22 countries surveyed Australia came out on top for the most people getting drunk regularly.

Read: Four non-alcoholic drinks to try this summer

Drinking and liver disease
The damage wrought by alcohol on the liver has been well known and scientifically established for some time, but a significant finding from the University of Sydney this year found that alcohol doesn’t affect all livers equally.

The scientists discovered that the harmful effects of alcohol are amplified in people who were overweight or obese.

“People in the overweight or obese range who drank were found to be at greater risk of liver diseases compared with participants within a healthy weight range who consumed alcohol at the same level,” said senior author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

“Even for people who drank within alcohol guidelines, participants classified as obese were at over 50 per cent greater risk of liver disease.”

Read: Ways to relax without alcohol

Good for your heart
The news wasn’t all bad for drinkers. In November, we reported on a study that found that drinking one beer or wine a day could be good for your heart.

Scientists from Monash University showed that when it came to cardiovascular disease (CVD), consuming alcohol (in moderation) may actually be beneficial.

The study did attract criticism from health experts, however, with addiction specialist Professor Andy Towers telling The Guardian the study used outdated collection methods that didn’t take into account many other factors, such as a person’s socio-economic status.

Tips for avoiding a hangover this New Year’s Day
Let’s start with the obvious: the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink less.

Now, as outlined at the start of this article, we know that is unlikely to happen, so what else can we do to lessen our chances of ruining the first day of the new year?

Eating a solid meal is important before you start drinking and on the morning after. Food helps to stabilise your body sugar levels and provide you with nutrients. Low blood sugar contributes to symptoms such as fatigue and nausea. Heavy drinking is also known to cause imbalances in the chemicals in your blood. Eating helps to balance them.

Drinking alcohol makes you dehydrated, which is the leading reason that you suffer from hangovers. Drinking water or electrolytes can help you replenish what you have lost, particularly if you have a big glass before you go to bed.

The hair of the dog isn’t a myth. Having a drink the next morning can prevent your body’s conversion of methanol into toxic formaldehyde, which can cause hangover symptoms. While this can lessen symptoms by allowing formaldehyde to leave the body harmlessly, it could encourage unhealthy drinking habits, and is not recommended.

Research supporting the effectiveness of some supplements is limited.

Ginger can reduce nausea and vomiting when mixed with brown sugar and tangerine extract. A study has shown that prickly pear extract can half the severity of hangover symptoms. Red ginseng can reduce blood alcohol levels and hangover symptoms and eleuthero can reduce the severity of a hangover.

How are you planning to ring in the new year? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben