Let’s be honest: drinking great beer is delicious, and can enhance the enjoyment of life. But if you imbibe a bit too much, you will wake up feeling awful: a hangover. The symptoms of a hangover can include a bad headache, nausea, overall malaise, and sometimes deep regrets. Exactly what causes the dreaded hangover is still a topic of debate among scientists. Some postulate that alcohol causes an inflammatory reaction,while others argue that it acts as a poison. But everyone agrees that dehydration (lack of sufficient water in the body) is certainly a major part of it. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes the body to release water: this is why pissing the night away is an apt description of a night of heavy beer drinking.
But what if you could drink to your heart’s content, and not become dehydrated? Well, scientists at Griffith University’s Health Institute in Australia have developed a beer that apparently does just that. By adding electrolytes to the brewing formula, the researchers claim that test groups that drank the beer reported less hangover effects than those who drank non-electrolyte beer. Electrolytes are chemicals (often salts) that cause the body to retain water: they are the things in Gatorade, for example. So if you add them to beer, they will cause the body to not release as much of the water. Beer is, after all, mostly water.
One of the scientists, Ben Desbrow, says, “We know that beer is a very popular drink with people, particularly after sport or exertion. From our perspective it’s about exploring harm minimization approaches that may still allow people to potentially drink beer as a beverage, but lower the risks associated with the alcohol consumption—and hopefully improve rehydration potential.”
The claim is that the electrolytes do not affect the flavor of the beer. I am not sure about this. First of all, the studies used a mass-produced light beer, which is devoid of flavor to begin with. Also, electrolytes can create a salty flavor on the taste buds. So would electrolyte-filled craft beer still taste as good? I would like to try it to find out. But until good, non-dehydrating craft beer hits the shelves, I guess we will just have to continue to suffer the effects of a hangover.