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Heard that drinking olive oil before alcohol prevents hangovers? Not sure if it’s true or not.
Well, you’re not alone. With so many hangover prevention myths floating around, it’s hard to separate the facts from the fads.
Olive oil is almost universally accepted as a “healthy” oil to use for cooking and as a dressing. In some places, drinking a shot of olive oil before alcohol is customary.
But, does drinking olive oil really prevent hangovers?
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at olive oil as a hangover prevention aid. Along the way, we’ll examine research papers to see if there’s any evidence for drinking olive oil before alcohol to prevent hangovers.
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Hangover prevention – The Basics
To appreciate whether drinking olive oil before alcohol can prevent hangovers, we first need to go over how alcohol causes hangovers in the first place.
Hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol, at too fast a rate for your liver to handle. The buildup of alcohol in your bloodstream causes damage as your liver struggles to process the excess load. Some of the ways in which alcohol causes hangovers include (1):
1- Dehydration: alcohol blocks a hormone called ADH which means your kidneys flush out extra water.
2- Inflammation: the by-products of alcohol metabolism are toxic and react with your cells causing inflammation.
3- Sleep disruption: Alcohol significantly reduces your sleep quality.
The best way to prevent hangovers is to drink less and at a slower rate. In addition to this, slowing down the absorption of alcohol from your gut can also help. It’s well-known that eating before drinking alcohol significantly slows down alcohol absorption.(2)(3)
That’s why it’s best to eat before drinking alcohol. Your mum was right in saying, “don’t drink on an empty stomach”.
This is where olive oil comes into play. Could drinking olive oil before alcohol slow down how fast alcohol is absorbed? And is drinking olive oil before alcohol better than other foods?
That’s what we’ll look at next.
Does drinking olive oil before alcohol prevent hangovers?
One thing is for certain, drinking olive oil before alcohol will definitely not completely prevent hangovers. If you drink enough alcohol, you are guaranteed to have a hangover. Regardless of whether you drink olive oil or any other supposed magic potion.
At the time of writing, there are no research studies looking at drinking olive oil before alcohol for hangover prevention. Or whether olive oil specifically slows down alcohol absorption.
That said, it’s commonly believed that fatty foods and oils, in general, are better at slowing down alcohol absorption than other foods.
Interestingly, research studies have shown that in actual fact, it doesn’t matter what you eat before drinking alcohol. Everything helps, including protein, fat and, carbohydrates.(4)(5)
The bottom line: Drinking olive oil will not completely prevent your hangover from happening. However, drinking olive oil before alcohol could slow down how fast alcohol is absorbed. That said, it is unlikely to have any particular benefit over just eating a normal meal before going out.
Other Benefits of olive oil
Next up, we’ll focus on other potential benefits of olive oil for hangover prevention. Aside from the fact that olive oil is a fat and can slow alcohol absorption, it’s also full of antioxidants.(6)
These include polyphenols which are naturally occurring neutralizers of free-radicals. Free-radicals are formed as by-products of metabolism, and drinking alcohol greatly increases the amount of free radicals produced.
We mentioned earlier that inflammation is one of the main causes of a hangover. And this inflammation is caused free-radicals that are produced when alcohol is broken down in your liver.
Although unproven, olive oil could potentially support your body’s natural antioxidant defences.
Anything else to consider?
We’ve said it before and we’re going to do so again. Ultimately, hangovers are caused by drinking too much, too fast. The best way to prevent a hangover is to drink less and at a slower pace. Trying to prevent a hangover by drinking olive oil is the wrong approach.
Eating a meal before going out (with or without olive oil included) and drinking plenty of water is also important for preventing the worst hangovers.
Aside from this, you could consider sticking to lighter colored alcoholic drinks. That’s because darker drinks such as wine and whiskey contain more congeners. And these have been shown to make hangovers symptoms more severe. You can read more about this in our article about congeners.
Olive oil for hangover prevention – Final verdict
So, drinking olive oil before alcohol is not going to completely prevent your hangover. In fact, nothing in the world will. If you drink enough alcohol, you’re always going to get a hangover. Period.
That said, eating a meal before going out will definitely help slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream which, in turn, can give your liver some breathing space to process alcohol and its by-products.
Olive oil, like any food, will also achieve this.
Therefore, drinking olive oil before alcohol is better than drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.