Ringing in the New Year with a champagne toast is a ritual as old as time itself. Its fizzy effervescence certainly makes for an appropriately celebratory drink. But too much of a good thing sometimes leads to becoming a bit more tipsy than we’d planned…and possibly a nasty hangover to boot. Of course, the main culprit is alcohol, but research suggests that the carbon dioxide in champagne may intensify its intoxicating effects.
The study, published in Alcohol & Alcoholism, compared blood alcohol levels of participants after drinking regular champagne versus degassed champagne (to mimic regular wine). Before having a drink, subjects performed seven psychomotor tests designed to test reaction times, memory and information processing. Participants drank champagne in amounts that provided 6 grams of alcohol per 140 lbs. body weight; they then repeated the psychomotor tests 20 and 60 minutes after finishing the drink. Blood alcohol concentrations were also measured every five minutes for the 40 minutes after finishing the drink. The same test was repeated on a different day with wine.
Blood alcohol concentrations were significantly higher after drinking champagne compared to drinking wine at the five, 10, 15 and 20 minute marks. Compared to drinking wine, subjects recorded slower times when asked to use a mouse to follow a moving target on a computer screen after drinking champagne, demonstrating impaired reaction times.
With only 12 subjects, this study was too small to draw any definite conclusions. However, these results suggest that champagne does in fact lead to a faster or more intense intoxication than wine, and that the carbon dioxide may be the cause. The authors hypothesized that the carbon dioxide slows down the movement of food and fluids through the gastrointestinal tract, allowing more alcohol to be absorbed. More research is needed to confirm the results of this study as well as to investigate the mechanism by which champagne may be more intoxicating than still wine.
So, if you plan on indulging in more than a glass or two of champagne this New Year’s Eve, remember that not all drinks are created equal. Whatever your drink of choice may be, here’s to a healthy 2011. Cheers!