11 Things You Think You Know About Alcohol (That Are Totally False)

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There are countless urban legends about drinking, from supposed wisdom about what gets you drunk the quickest, to tips on how to avoid a hangover, to rules of thumb for how you should buy and serve a fine wine. Many of them, however, aren’t rooted in science or data, but rather are elucidated from always-reliable field tests that tend to include several rounds of tequila shots. Passed down for years by elder fraternity brothers, teens sneaking their parents’ hooch, and other tipsy teachers, these myths are as stubborn as they are baseless. Here are 11 things you’ve heard about alcohol and drinking that aren’t actually true.

MYTH 1: CHAMPAGNE SHOULD BE CHILLED. 

Most people serve champagne cold, but a 2014 study by a French university found that bubbly remains more, well, bubbly if it’s closer to room temperature. Champagne is fizziest at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (your fridge should be below 40 degrees).

MYTH 2: HARD ALCOHOL WILL GET YOU DRUNK QUICKER. 

Yes, hard liquor has a higher alcohol content than beer. But as long as you’re drinking them at the same speed, a shot of liquor in a mixer should give you the same buzz as a 12-ounce beer. Shots tend to get people more drunk because they take them more quickly than they would drink a beer or a glass of wine.

MYTH 3: EVERYONE GETS HUNGOVER. 

Studies continuously—and controversially—show that about 25 percent of people don’t get hangovers. Lucky folks! It’s possible that this is because they don’t drink as much as they think they’re drinking, or it could be because of some as yet unknown genetic quirk. One study of Australian twins found that genetics were responsible for 40 to 45 percent of the difference in hangover frequency between people.

MYTH 4: BEER WILL GIVE YOU A ROUND BELLY.

There isn’t anything inherently more fattening about beer than any other alcohol. All alcohol is caloric and can lead to weight gain. The reason people associate a big gut with drinking too many brewskies might be because beer is consumed in larger quantities than liquor or wine. Or maybe people who drink beer just happen to also love subsisting on nacho cheese and hot dogs.

MYTH 5: MIXING BEER AND WINE WITH LIQUOR WILL MAKE YOUR HANGOVER WORSE.

There’s a myth (and popular rhyme) that drinking hard alcohol after you’ve had a few beers will make you sick, while drinking the hard stuff before beer will leave you “in the clear.” But the order doesn’t matter. Your body is going to try to process that alcohol no matter the order you drink it in, and if you drink too much for your body to handle, you’ll end up with a hangover (unless you’re one of the lucky 25 percent mentioned earlier).

MYTH 6: YOU SHOULDN’T MIX LIQUORS.

Just like mixing red wine and bourbon is perceived as a recipe for next-morning disaster, some advise against drinking a number of different liquors (chasing gin with rum with tequila). Certain liquors do have a higher likelihood of giving you a hangover thanks to chemicals called congeners, which are found in greater quantities in darker liquids like bourbon. Brandy is more likely to give you a terrible hangover than vodka, but mixing vodka and gin shouldn’t make things any worse than drinking the same amount of gin alone. Go ahead and get that Long Island iced tea.

MYTH 7: DRINKING KILLS BRAIN CELLS.

Long-term hard drinking isn’t great for the brain, but alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells like your mother warned it did. It does, however, impair brain function over time. Drinking can damage the ends of neurons, making it more difficult for them to relay signals. But that’s not quite the same thing as destroying entire cells.

MYTH 8: ALL CHAMPAGNE IS MADE IN CHAMPAGNE.

If you know nothing else of Champagne, you probably know that it’s bubbly and it has to be made in the Champagne region of France. The French take their wine appellations so seriously that they wrote a clause into the Treaty of Versailles to protect them. But America never signed the Treaty of Versailles, and an entire Champagne industry grew up in California. In 2005, an agreement was signed between the U.S. and the European Union to limit the use of the word “Champagne,” but any producer before that date was grandfathered in and allowed to keep labeling its bubbly as Champagne.

MYTH 9: A GIN AND TONIC WILL HELP PREVENT MALARIA. 

While the drink’s origin does lay in making quinine (which was dissolved in tonic water) go down more easily, modern tonic water contains hardly any quinine at all. You’d need to drink gallons and gallons of the stuff to get any anti-malarial protection. 

MYTH 10: SAKE IS A RICE WINE.

You would be forgiven for thinking this, as sake is often sold as a rice wine. But in fact, it’s more like a rice beer. Wines are alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice, and some expand that definition to include any and all fruit. But the process to make sake, which includes milling the grains of rice and fermenting them for weeks, is more akin to the beer-making process.

MYTH 11: YOUR MIXER DOESN’T MATTER.

You probably think that it’s the rum in your rum and coke that makes you drunk, but the soda pulls a surprising share of that load. A recent study showed that people who use diet mixers have higher Breath Alcohol Concentrations than people who use sugary sodas. Usually, our bodies consume sugary sodas and treat them as a food, absorbing all of the delightful sugar that slows down the rate our body absorbs alcohol. The lack of sugar in diet sodas means our bodies absorb the alcohol much faster. But more disturbingly, the study found that although the diet soda drinkers were substantially more drunk (they had higher BACs), they didn’t feel any more impaired.

Watch a 'Pasta Granny' Prepare This Rare 'Duchess's Little Snails' Dish

Courtesy of Vicky Bennison
Courtesy of Vicky Bennison

By some estimates, Italy has over 350 different kinds of pasta—and that’s only counting the different shapes. You’ll find twisted strozzapreti (literally “priest stranglers”), shoe-shaped ravioli, “swaddled baby” ravioli, and ear-shaped orecchiette.

While some of these variations can be found all throughout Italy, others are prepared only in certain regions, mostly by elderly women who may not have taught these family recipes to the next generation. One of the rarest types of pasta is su filindeu (which translates to “God’s wool”), and only a few people in the world know how to make it.

Vicky Bennison, the creator of the Pasta Grannies website and YouTube channel, wants to change that. By documenting these women (and sometimes men) doing what they do best, she hopes to preserve these centuries-old recipes.

Take, for instance, Anna Faggi, whose signature lumachelle della duchessa (literally “the duchess’s little snails") can only be found in the Pesaro Urbino region of central Italy.

According to the Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita, legend has it that lumachelle was invented inside the royal court of the Duke of Urbino, a walled city in Italy’s Marche region. The duke’s kitchen servants carried the recipe beyond the palace, where it became popular among nuns in the region.

The dough contains cinnamon and nutmeg, and the preparation is rather time-consuming, making it a dish that’s only prepared for weddings and other special occasions.

After preparing and slicing the dough, Faggi wraps the strips around a bulrush reed to create tiny tubes. Next, she rolls the tubes over a comb to create ridges in the pasta. It’s served in chicken stock, and while it’s traditionally topped with chicken stomach, you can do what Faggi does and add Parmigiano cheese instead.

See how it’s made in the video below:

A Low-Carb Diet Could Shorten Your Lifespan

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The Atkins, Paleo, and Keto diets may have different gimmicks, but they all share a common message: Carbs are bad and meat is good. Yet a new analysis reported by New Scientist suggests that anyone who buys into this belief may later come to regret it. According to the paper, published in The Lancet Public Health, people who eat a moderate amount of carbs actually live longer than those who avoid them.

For their study, researchers analyzed data previously collected from 15,400 participants in the U.S. They found that people who received about 50 to 55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates had the longest lifespans, roughly four years longer than those who got 30 percent or less of their energy from carbs.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the key to a healthy diet is to stock your pantry with pasta and croissants. The study also showed that people who got up to 70 percent or more of their energy from carbs died one year earlier on average than subjects in the 50 to 55 percent group. A closer examination at the eating of habits of people who ate fewer carbs revealed another layer to the phenomenon: When people avoided carbohydrates in favor of meat, their chances of early death rose, but the opposite was true for people who replaced carb-heavy foods with plant-based fats and proteins, such as nuts, beans, and vegetables.

These numbers point to something dietitians have long been aware of: Eating a diet that's based around animal products isn't ideal. Getting more of your protein from plant-based sources, on the other hand, can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Nonetheless, fad diets that forbid people from eating carbs while letting them eat as much steak as they want are still popular because they're an easy way to lose weight in a short amount of time. But as the research shows, the short-term results are rarely worth the long-term effects on your health.

[h/t New Scientist]

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