STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Touting this hangover cure is troubling

Nursing a hangover has long been a part of American drinking culture, and it's a tradition many are observin...

Posted: Jan 2, 2019 4:47 AM
Updated: Jan 2, 2019 4:47 AM

Nursing a hangover has long been a part of American drinking culture, and it's a tradition many are observing on the first day of 2019. Pedialyte, a drink manufactured by Abbott Nutrition, was originally marketed as a rehydration solution for sick children. But sales among adults increased 57% between 2012 and mid-2015, according to the market research firm Nielsen.

The company recently released powdered packets of Pedialyte called "Sparkling Rush" in time for New Year's Eve excess. While there are other rehydration products from sports drinks to coconut water, the makers of Pedialyte seem to be intensifying their efforts to market the product to millennials and other adults as an antidote to hard partying.

Alcoholic beverages

Beverages

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Consumer products

Food and drink

Health and medical

Internet and WWW

Kinds of foods and beverages

Marketing and advertising

Social media

Technology

It's troubling to see the company's social media posts that position Pedialyte next to glasses of craft beer, and captions urging followers to share their "best bounce-back selfie." As the company seems to be set on making its new product the toast of the young social media influencer set, this is a perfect moment for a little hangover lesson.

Though Pedialyte is used in children's hospitals and by sick kids at home for dehydration caused by a variety of illnesses, "oral electrolyte replacement products intended to treat diarrhea are regulated as medical foods," according to the FDA, and are not regulated as drugs. Abbott can't make direct medical claims about treating the common hangover without the FDA's approval. Yet through social media and thinly veiled winks and nods, the company appears to be targeting people who are feeling worse for wear after nights out.

"The holiday season is unfortunately rife with dehydration pitfalls. With flu season in full effect, air travel to visit loved ones, and even those late nights out with friends, you've got a recipe for your body to lose more water than it takes in, causing dehydration," Abbott writes in its press release announcing Sparkling Rush.

What's really happening on those late nights? For a clearer explanation, turn to Pedialyte's Twitter account, where a pinned tweet shows an ice-filled tub of Lagunitas beer joined by bottles of Pedialtye. Scroll through social media and we see the company retweeting young people showing off branded Pedialyte gear. In one tweet shared by Pedialyte, a man writes, "Only one way to enjoy the new Pedialyte sparkling rush," with a photograph of himself with the drink -- which he appears to be enjoying from a wine glass.

Abbott told me via email: "We do not endorse or promote the irresponsible or excessive drinking of alcohol, and we know there is no cure for a hangover." But the company's marketing sends a different message.

It's all great fun until you recognize that a hangover is the sign of an injury. The fatigue, nausea, headache and upset stomach are messages from your body to your brain asking, "Hey Bud, what are you doing to me?" Like carelessly burning yourself on a hot stove, a hangover affords an opportunity for reflection on how to avoid the injury next time. Instead, Pedialyte's marketing suggests there's a way to power through the pain without understanding the root cause, or the consequences.

"Alcohol is a diuretic, and if you don't replace the fluids lost even after just a couple alcoholic beverages, it may lead to dehydration," wrote Molly Sustar, Abbott's global director of public affairs. Hangover biology is complicated, and still being investigated, but we know that dehydration is only one piece of the puzzle. Abbott is correct that alcohol is a diuretic, which, like many types of blood pressure pills, encourages the kidneys to dump water. With alcohol, your body's water loss rate over a few hours can be as much as four times the volume of the alcoholic beverage you're enjoying.

Will an electrolyte beverage like Pedialyte help you stay hydrated? Yes. But a little dehydration isn't all that's going on in your body when you drink to excess.

You probably already know that your liver and brain don't appreciate heavy alcohol consumption and that over time you can significantly damage these vital organs. A huge recent study that analyzed data from 195 countries challenges the formerly popular notion that light drinking, by contrast, confers health benefits.

And we're also learning that markers of bodily inflammation called cytokines shoot up in people suffering hangovers the day after drinking excessively as the blood alcohol level returns to zero. Inflammation is the body's response to injury, and immune system dysfunction is increasingly linked to numerous diseases.

There's no evidence that Pedialyte protects your vital organs or your immune system from the ill effects of alcohol intoxication, and it's quite reasonable to worry that these products might mask your body's warning signs that it's had too much. It would be a disservice if people incorrectly assume they can consume large quantities of alcohol and undo the adverse effects by downing Pedialyte the next day.

And even if Pedialyte helps ease the next day's hangover, that hangover was a critical message from your body to your brain that you're on the wrong trajectory. The painful messages our bodies send us about our behaviors are crucially important to our overall health. These physical tolls translate into subconscious wariness of the excessive food or drink that made us sick, helping us avoid that level of over-consumption next time around.

Truly sophisticated drinkers need nothing more than tap water and self control to have an enjoyable night with a few alcoholic beverages on board. If instead you're suffering hangovers that ruin the following day without dialing back and taking heed of the consequences to your life, you can be at risk for alcoholism. Indeed, such warping of your decision-making thanks to this addictive chemical is part of the definition of alcoholism.

The makers of Pedialyte certainly aren't the first ones to promote a remedy for alcohol's effects. Alka Seltzer's "Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz" campaigns of yore employed everyone from night life stars like Sammy Davis, Jr. to regular guys who've had too much beer to sell their indigestion treatment.

Pedialyte's incursion into a hangover culture that's already the subject of a three-part Hollywood franchise celebrating alcohol-induced debauchery isn't the crisis of our time. But Abbott, an otherwise respectable healthcare behemoth, is at risk of making a serious mistake. It's time for the company to step back from the edge before its unwise marketing efforts do anything to encourage alcohol abuse and over drinking.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 76°
Columbus
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 80°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 72°
High pressure still tries to hang on to our area on Thursday, however a weak warm front will change the dominance of high pressure. This weak cold front will give us a chance for some isolated showers and thunderstorms at times.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather