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Chemistry of a hangover

Jenna Johnson

A Catholic University chemistry professor tackled a lecture topic this week that college students usually only discuss over beers -- the chemistry of a hangover.

Wearing a bouncing shamrock headband, professor Diane Bunce told her class of about 30 non-chemistry majors that she was not promoting excessive alcohol consumption or teaching them ways around the side effects of drinking. And she reminded them that 15 percent of the population has an alcohol abuse problem, and even more people are negatively affected by the drinking problems of others.

DianeBunce03151.JPGThen she launched into a lesson on alcohol (2C2H5OH + 2CO2). Some of the instruction included:

* You can get a headache from some types of liquor because of low blood sugar or allergic reactions.

* Nausea and an upset stomach comes from alcohol's irritant effect, which stimulates the secretion of acid in the stomach.

* You become thirsty while drinking because alcohol rids your body of water, quickly dehydrating you. That's also why you get tired. (And caffeine does not sober you up, it just confuses your body.)

* Other hangover symptoms come from blood sugar levels increasing for about an hour and then dropping to low levels.

The American Chemical Society videotaped the lecture, which you can watch on its Web site or here.

The Chemistry of Alcohol and Hangovers: Part One from ACS Pressroom on Vimeo.


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Chemistry of Alcohol & Hangovers: Part Two from ACS Pressroom on Vimeo.

By Jenna Johnson  |  March 17, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Night Life  | Tags: Catholic University  
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