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Why Do We Crave Greasy Food When We’re Hungover?

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No matter how much fun you have into the wee hours of the morning, hangovers are a rough trade-off for a night of boozing. Friends may suggest and swear by dozens of so-called cures, from a very specific type of ice cream, to listening to music, to the “hair of the dog” method. But sometimes all you want is a few gallons of water and a big plate of the greasiest food you can find. So what is it about greasy food that is so enticing when you’re trying to remember what you did with the Advil, but your head hurts too much to think about it? The answer may have something to do with laziness and your need to re-energize.

“One of the most powerful laws in psychology is the law of least effort,” Cornell University College of Human Ecology professor David Levitsky tells mental_floss. “Greasy food is a surrogate for fat and fat is the nutrient for the highest energy density. We go for calorically dense food because it takes the minimum of preparation and yields [the] highest caloric payoff.”

As someone whose job is to teach others about nutrition, Levitsky acknowledges that this craving is not the smartest idea, but sometimes the hunt for energy becomes a higher priority than maintaining a healthy diet. “Evolution doesn’t care that it will kill you when you are 70,” he says. “You have finished procreating by then.” 

If you’d rather not accept the idea that you were temporarily not strong enough to resist temptation, there is another theory that may shift the blame to your brain. International Business Times cites a 2004 study by Princeton University that suggests that a chemical in the brain called galanin is the real culprit. The study involved injecting rats with the chemical to see how it affected their consumption of alcohol. Rats injected with galanin were found to consume more alcohol, even when their food and water intake remained normal. When observed during the day, the otherwise nocturnal rats would drink alcohol during hours that did not match their usual eating and drinking schedules, but they would still not drink water off-schedule and would not eat.

“There seems to be a cycle of positive feedback,” Bartley Hoebel, the study's co-author, said. “Consumption of alcohol produces galanin, and galanin promotes the consumption of alcohol. That would perpetuate the behavior.”

"Alcohol is the only drug of abuse that is also a calorie-rich food, and it undoubtedly has important interactions with systems that control food intake and nutrition," researcher Michael Lewis added.

So the next time you party hard all night, roll out of bed the next afternoon, and head to the nearest diner or fast food restaurant, there are two possible explanations to choose from while fighting off those judgmental stares.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
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Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
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Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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