From gals’ night out (that new wine bar!) to a weekend on the sofa with beer and binge-watching, Americans are drinking more than ever, according to research in JAMA Psychiatry.
Despite our affinity for alcohol, there are plenty of misconceptions about it-but can you separate fact from fiction? Take this quiz for a straight shot of the truth.
The answer: true
Sure, some research has linked a daily glass of wine to a healthy heart, but the message that alcohol is a wellness product is dead wrong. Moderate drinkers tend to be wealthier and so may have better health for other reasons, says Tim Naimi, M.D., M.P.H., a physician and alcohol epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center.
In fact, alcohol is a carcinogen: Research shows that women who drink even moderately have an elevated risk of breast cancer. The bottom line: “Don’t begin drinking, or drinking more frequently, for your health,” he says.
The answer: false
Don’t spend your money on pricey sulfite-free wine. Though red wine is a common migraine trigger, its sulfites (which naturally occur in all wine and are sometimes added as preservatives) aren’t to blame, says research in the journal Headache.
The culprits might be phenols-plant compounds, more abundant in red wine than in white, that affect the way your brain processes certain neurotransmitters. Steer clear of any type of wine that makes your head pound, advises Jessica Ailani, M.D., director of MedStar Georgetown Headache Center, along with these other known headache and migraine triggers.
The answer: false
Some booze does stay behind, so if you’re avoiding alcohol, your best bet is to leave it out of recipes. To vaporize more alcohol when cooking with it, turn up the heat or cook the food longer, says Gavin Sacks, associate professor of food science at Cornell University. When beef bourguignon, made with a bottle of red wine, is simmered for 15 minutes, half the alcohol remains, but after two and a half hours, just 5% is still there, he says.
Worried you’ll overcook the meat? Boil the wine separately first until it has lost a third of its volume. And put a lid on it: A Food Chemistry study suggests that this can increase the proportion of alcohol that gets vaporized.
The answer: Not really
Liquid courage is overrated. Alcohol can temporarily mellow you out by disrupting connectivity between brain regions that process emotion-triggering information. However, in a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who used alcohol to cope with anxiety got less of a mood boost than those who drank for other reasons (like to socialize with friends).
And in the long run, drinking can make anxiety worse, says study author Stephanie Gorka, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. “Explore other ways to relax, such as listening to music, deep breathing, stretching, and getting support from a friend.”
The answer: true
The hair of the dog might distract you for a bit, but it will prolong your pain. A hangover can last 12 to 24 hours as your blood alcohol level declines from its peak, and if you drink more, you reset the clock. You could pick up a hangover-recovery drink, patch, or powder at the drugstore, but none has been proven effective by independent research. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever can ease your throbbing headache, although for now the only guaranteed hangover cure is avoidance. Sorry!
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