Does Champagne Go Straight To Your Head?

When it comes to celebrating special occasions, champagne is always a welcome guest at the party. There's just something about a bottle of bubbly — be it traditional champagne (from Champagne) or sparkling wine (from anywhere but Champagne) — that makes any birthday or anniversary all the more special. Yet amidst all the excitement, the one question you're probably not dwelling on is: Does champagne really go straight to my head? Remember, there are no stupid champagne questions. Technically speaking, it does (once you've mastered bottle-opening, of course).

Carbonated vs. non-carbonated beverages

The effects of alcohol consumption are seen in the brain after the first drink. When it comes to carbonated beverages, like champagne, these effects are seen faster. The obvious difference between carbonated and non-carbonated beverages is apparent upon first glance — the bubbles! While alcohol is normally absorbed through the walls of the small intestine as the beverage moves through the lower digestive tract, this is only partially true when you drink champagne.

As a result of carbonation from the fermentation process, a substantial amount of alcohol is absorbed through the walls of your stomach long before it even reaches the small intestine. How? When exposed to the millions of tiny bubbles of trapped carbon dioxide in a carbonated drink, the overall pressure of the stomach cavity increases, facilitating the diffusion of ethanol from your stomach into your bloodstream.

Drinking on an empty stomach

Your mother always told you never to drink on an empty stomach, and for good reason. Notwithstanding the usual spread of bite-sized hors d'oeuvres — like canapés or crudité — generally served with champagne, there may not be much in the way of "real" food to fill your stomach. In the absence of food, alcohol is absorbed much more quickly as a result of increased gastric dumping — the process by which ingested foods or liquids are released from the stomach into the lower GI tract. Rather than "soaking up" the alcohol in your stomach like a sponge, as myth would suggest, eating food with alcohol delays gastric dumping and slows further absorption of alcohol by preventing quick release into the small intestine where absorption rates are higher.

Moral of the story: Raise your glass and toast to the moment, just remember to have a little something to eat beforehand. You'll thank me in the morning.

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