Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

Nicole Senior

Myth: Coffee sobers you up. 
Sorry, the only thing that sobers you up if you have drunk too much alcohol is TIME. It’s not a question of having a cup of strong black coffee to wake you up, nor a cold shower. It’s a question of getting the alcohol out of your body. And that takes time. If you have a large glass (250ml) wine, you need to allow about three hours for your body to break down the alcohol. So imagine how long a night on the town takes …

Man drinking lots of coffee

In fact, there are no hard and fast rules about how long the alcohol will stay in your body—it depends on your age and weight, whether you’re male or female, what sort of metabolism you have, how much food you’ve eaten, the type of alcohol over what period of time, how stressed you are and whether you are on any medication.

Downing a mug of coffee may be the worst thing you can do, according to a Temple University study (in mice) published in Behavioural Neuroscience. In the laboratory, caffeine made ‘drunk’ mice more alert but did not reverse the learning problems caused by alcohol, including their ability to avoid things they should have known could hurt them. The same results have been found in people who combine caffeine-loaded energy drinks with alcohol: the caffeine makes them more alert but their judgment is still impaired by the alcohol. In effect, the caffeine-alcohol combination makes you feel like you can, but actually you can’t: the potential for injury and misadventure is obvious.

The good news is that another study (in rats this time) has shown that a cup of coffee and an aspirin may help with the sore head the next day.

Key info: Coffee may make you feel more alert when you have drunk too much – but it doesn’t help you make better decisions or drive safely. Only time breaks down alcohol in the body.
Hungry for more? See http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov and http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-and-you/health.

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of Food Myths available in bookshops and online and from www.greatideas.net.au