Coffee and hangovers: Coffee has been suggested as a potential remedy for hangovers in the popular media, but is this really the case?

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Coffee has been suggested as a potential remedy for hangovers in the popular media, but is this really the case? 

Hangovers are a consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. It’s been suggested that hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration, hormonal alterations and toxic effects of alcohol1. Experts have concluded that there is no compelling evidence to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating an alcohol induced hangover2.

Headaches are a key symptom of hangovers, and are partly caused by dehydration or fluid deprivation1. It is suggested that drinking fluids can help to reduce headache symptoms in some cases, providing relief from the pain experienced3,4.

Black coffee, which is more than 95% water5, contributes to fluid intake, which therefore boosts hydration6-9. Although caffeine has a small diuretic effect, this does not counter balance the amount of fluid ingested in a cup of coffee, and drinking caffeinated coffee in moderation can therefore help maintain fluid balance6-9.

Another key symptom of hangovers is fatigue. Research suggests that caffeine, found in coffee, is a stimulant, which increases alertness10. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that a cause and effect relationship has been established between a 75mg serving of caffeine – the amount found in approximately one regular cup of coffee – and both increased attention (concentration) and alertness, mainly in situations of low arousal10.

To learn more about coffee and fluid balance, read here.

  1. Wiese J.G. et al. (2000) The alcohol hangover. Ann intern Med 132(11):897-902.
  2. Pittler M.H. (2005) Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 331(7531):1515-1518.
  3. Blau J.N. et al. (2004) Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Headache, 44(1):79-83.
  4. Spigt M. et al. (2012) A randomized trial on the effects of regular water intake in patients with recurrent headaches Family practice, 29(4), 370-5.
  5. Food Standards Agency, Public Health England, McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, 7th edn., Cambridge, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2014.
  6. Maughan R.J. et al (2003). Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition Dietetic, 16, 411-420.
  7. Armstrong L.E. et al (2005). Fluid, electrolyte, renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 15, 252-265.
  8. Silva A. M. et al (2013) Total body water and its compartments are not affected by ingesting a moderate dose of caffeine in healthy young adult males. Applied Physiology Nutrition & Metabolism, 38:626-632.
  9. Killer S. C. et al (2014) No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake: A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population. PLoS ONE, 9(1): e84154.
  10. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2015) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal, 9(4): 2054.

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