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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 19:05 GMT
The fizz that gets you drunk quicker
Alcohol levels rise faster when drinking champagne
Champagne really does go to your head more quickly than other alcoholic drinks, researchers have discovered.

The bubbles in most celebratory tipples seem to get people drunk more quickly, but scientists believe combining fizzy water with wine could have the same effect.

During a controlled study of 12 volunteers at the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, half were invited to drink fizzy champagne and six were given flat champagne, purged of bubbles with a whisk.

Psychologist and experiment co-ordinator Fran Ridout found alcohol levels rose much faster among the bubbly drinkers.

Each volunteer drank two glasses of champagne per session.

Drinking fizzy water with your wine could potentially have the same effect as champagne

Fran Ridout, psychologist
After just five minutes, they had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, it is reported in New Scientist.

Those drinking flat champagne averaged just 0.39 milligrams of alcohol.

The legal drink drive limit is 0.8 milligrams.

At the end of the 40-minute experiment, those drinking the fizzy tipple averaged 0.7 milligrams per millilitre.

Those drinking flat champagne had only reached 0.58 milligrams.

Ms Ridout said: "Champagne has 250 million bubbles per glass potentially.

"Drinking fizzy water with your wine could potentially have the same effect as champagne.

"If you want a good night out have a glass of champers when you start, but don't get into your car afterwards."

Absorption theory

Researchers, who collaborated with a gastroenterologist at Epsom General Hospital in Surrey, could not say why champagne gets you drunk more quickly.

Ms Ridout said: "It must be absorbed from the digestive system quicker."

Normally, we absorb 20% of any alcohol we drink in the stomach and the remainder in the intestines.

One theory is that carbon dioxide in the bubbles somehow speeds the flow of alcohol into the intestines.

In standard computer tests, bubbly drinkers took 200 milliseconds longer on average to notice peripheral objects than when they were sober.

Fizzy drinkers were also less vigilant, having more trouble spotting sequences of three odd or even numbers within a random sequence.

But neither drink affected memory or general reaction times more than the other.

Fran Ridout, Surrey University
"We used an electric whisk"
See also:

29 Nov 01 | England
Reward to 'shop' drink drivers
24 Dec 01 | Scotland
Tests to target drug-drivers
20 Feb 01 | Scotland
Drug-drive warning for clubbers
26 Jan 00 | UK
Probe into drug driving
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