Drinking Alcohol on an Empty Stomach

Now that I have left my home and began my new, independent life at college my parents are always finding ways to remind me to stay safe and healthy. As any college campus is a hub for the binge drinking culture, this is one of their main concerns. Recently, before I go out to a party my mom will shoot me a text saying, “remember to eat a big dinner before you go out if you plan on drinking!” As sometimes I am rushing to get ready for my night time event, I wonder if spending time getting and consuming this big meal is actually beneficial. I have heard multiple times that if you drink on an empty stomach, the alcohol will effect you more than it would with a full stomach. However, as we have learned many times in class, just hearing something from the general population does not necessarily mean it is the truth. For example, the statement could be skewed due to the power of the anecdote. It is possible that one person did not eat all day and then went out and got too drunk, which could just be a case of correlation. It is always necessary to turn to science with these types of questions.

Possible answers:

Null hypothesis: The amount of food consumed by a human before drinking does not play a role in how much the consumption of alcohol is going to effect him or her.

Alternative hypothesis (general belief): The amount of food consumed by a human being plays a role in how much the consumption of alcohol is going to effect him or her

Before doing any research on the topic I was thinking about how it would effect people’s daily habits if the null hypothesis was correct. I concluded that as this point it might not change anything at all. It would probably be very difficult to convince someone that this is true . As we have talked about in class, once something is a strong, popular belief amongst the majority of people, it is extremely hard for scientists to change their mind.


The study that I found is from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and shows two different studies that were performed at Indiana University hospital. The first study consisted of 20 people (10 males and 10 females) and was testing the alcohol elimination rate. The subjects  underwent two sessions of alcohol being injected into their veins. The first session was after a 12 hour period of not eating and the second was after a normal meal. In order to make the study accurate, all of the subjects ate the exact same amount of calories.



Result: Those who ate before the alcohol injection had a increased alcohol rate of 25% compared to those with an empty stomach. There were also large differences between males and females which is shown above.

The second study was performed in a similar fashion except their were four sessions. The first was again one in which the subjects did not eat before the injections. The second one gave the injection after a high-fat meal. The third one was given after a high-carb meal and the fourth one was given after after a high-protein meal.


Result: Those who ate before the alcohol injections had a 45% increased rate of alcohol elimination. There were no significant differences across the three different types of meals that were consumed by those who ate.

Method: This article tells us that on an empty stomach, alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream faster than it is if you have recently consumed food.

Conclusion: All of the advice that I have heard from many people ranging from my best friends to my parents, along with the scientific evidence that I stated above, has made me come to the conclusion that it is a smart and rational idea to eat the appropriate amount before drinking alcohol.


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