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Is It True: That Coffee Can Help Cure A Hangover?

Posted on July 23, 2016 in Columns, Is It True, Staff Picks

By Rohini Banerjee:

So you’ve had a long night of partying or drinking and you’re wondering how to deal with the massive hangover that’s threatening to eat up your brain; and you resort to the one thing that you think will make it better—caffeine. Coffee and aspirin—the classic hangover cure, eh? You’ve seen it work in films, and even in scientific journals—so why shouldn’t it work for you?

Quite a few scientists claim that coffee’s the best hangover cure out there, and not just that, but that it has long-term benefits too! Alcohol consumption secrets an enzyme called GGT in the body, an excess of which can cause a range of illnesses—from liver damage to heart diseases. However, a study conducted by a group of British scientists in 2013, found that drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day can actually bring down the level of GGT in your body and lead to a healthier lifestyle. Other than that, caffeine has also been known to kill various other toxins that are secreted by alcohol consumption.

But sadly, many experts are divided on the issue, and have found conflicting results.

Many claim that coffee will not sober you up—whether you’re downing shots of espresso immediately after drinking or having a cup of warm-brew to cure your morning-after hangover—because they say that the compounds in coffee won’t actually dilute or mellow down the effects of alcohol. The molecules in coffee—adenosine, adrenaline and caffeine—may increase your alertness, but their effects on the alcohol in your system are yet to be concretely determined. Coffee might make you seem more awake and fill you with energy—which might lull you into thinking that it has sobered you up—but whether or not it’s actually reacting with the alcohol in your system is hard to tell.

Caffeine also has a lot of harmful effects—least of which is the fact that it narrows blood vessels and increases your blood pressure, which might actually make your hangover headache even worse. Too much coffee might also expose you to potential heart attacks and contractions; and fuel anxiety and depression.

There’s no clear consensus, and that’s what makes the debate confusing—to coffee or not to coffee (after a hangover)? Actually, it differs from person to person. For those who drink coffee regularly or have a mild caffeine addiction, avoiding coffee during a hangover might lead to caffeine withdrawal, which in turn can lead to really bad headaches. But for a non-caffeine drinker, coffee might make no difference whatsoever for a hangover (and instead, end up causing other complications.

What, then, should one do to cure a hangover? The answers to this question differ hugely from person to person. For some (like me), oily food works; for some, it’s drinking copious amounts of water and for some, it might even be coffee. There is no single foolproof solution, because everyone’s bodies function differently—so it’s a matter of trial and error until you find that one fail-safe thing which would help you through a hangover. It’s important to understand what would harm your body and what would benefit it; especially when you’re hungover and in a vulnerable state. And if it’s coffee that floats your boat, then indulge away in some dark roast (or however else you like your coffee); but if it isn’t, and you’re worried about the long-term effects, then better stay away from that cup of coffee.