Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It's Cold Out?

Joe Robbins / Getty
Joe Robbins / Getty

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Here's something tailgaters, ice skaters, skiers and other cold weather fans might want to keep in mind: Drinking boozy beverages will make you feel warmer, but it doesn't actually keep you warm or prevent hypothermia. Instead, drinking alcohol lowers the core temperature of your body.

According to Dr. William Haynes, director of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Iowa, “Consumption of alcohol undoes many of the human body’s healthy reflexes, one of which is keeping the core body temperature warm in cold weather.” It doesn’t even take that much for this effect to kick in—just one alcoholic drink will start the process that results in a lowered core body temperature.

How does alcohol do this, and why does drinking alcohol make you feel warmer, even though you actually are getting colder?

You Booze, You Lose (Heat)

Alcohol is a vasodilator. It causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries just under the surface of your skin. When you have a drink, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warm. (That dilation is why slightly or exceedingly intoxicated people look flushed.) This overrides one of your body’s defenses against cold temperatures: Constricting your blood vessels, thereby minimizing blood flow to your skin in order to keep your core body temperature up.

Someone enjoying a drink in the cold may feel warmer from the extra blood warming his skin, but that blood will rapidly cool thanks to the chill in the air. Plus, the warmth caused by blood rushing to the skin will also make him sweat, decreasing his core temperature even further. The rapid drop often occurs without the drinker realizing it, because his skin will still feel fairly warm, which makes it doubly dangerous to drink alcohol in extremely cold weather. (You might want to put down the coffee, too; caffeine has a similar effect.)

The Big Chill

This isn’t the only bad thing about drinking alcohol in the cold. According to a study done by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, drinking alcohol in chilly weather also reduces the body’s ability and tendency to shiver, taking away yet another method your body uses to help keep warm when it is cold.

Bottom line? The age-old practice of drinking alcoholic beverages to keep the body warm in cold weather is the exact opposite of what you should do.

Wine Prices Are Dropping—Here’s Why

These glasses of wine might've been cheaper than usual.
These glasses of wine might've been cheaper than usual.
Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images

Stopping by the local wine shop on your way home from work today? That bottle of red, white, or rosé might be a little cheaper than it has been in the past—and not (necessarily) because today is National Drink Wine Day. According to CNN, the price of wine is on the decline due to a grape surplus in California and a decrease in demand across the country.

Jeff Bitter, president of Allied Grape Growers, told CNN that demand had grown pretty consistently for about 20 years before abruptly slowing down in 2015. That surprising decrease, combined with especially plentiful grape harvests at northern California vineyards—which were partially the result of improved harvesting techniques—has forced the market to drop its prices.

"Since it takes up to five years to bring wine to market from the initial planning stages of planting a vineyard, it makes hitting future demand very complicated,” Bitter told CNN. “In this case, we overshot demand.”

Prices will likely stay low for a few years while vineyards figure out how many acres of vines they need to match consumer demand. Meanwhile, the rest of the wine industry will be trying to figure out how to increase demand by targeting a seemingly indifferent demographic: Millennials.

Rob McMillan, founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, explained in the annual report on the state of the wine industry that this price drop could be one way of tacitly encouraging Millennials to choose wine over other types of alcohol.

“Acute oversupply will allow for better-quality juice in lower-priced bottles, which will improve value and may provide an incentive for some Millennials to become more consistent wine buyers,” McMillan said in the report.

Whether or not you’re a wine drinker yourself, you can still enjoy learning a little something about everyone’s favorite fermented fruit juice—here are 10 facts you might not know about wine.

[h/t CNN]

Confuse Your Friends With an Upside Down Wine Glass

AddLiquid/Amazon
AddLiquid/Amazon

Sometimes the best pranks are the ones that take the least amount of work. And this one is as simple as drinking a glass of wine—upside down.

The Upside Down Wine Glass is available on Amazon for $15. And unlike traditional glasses, you pour your vino into the stem, creating the illusion that you're drinking from the bottom and about to spill the glass’s contents everywhere (the prank is probably best pulled when you're drinking red wine and sitting on a friend's new white couch).

Alongside looking cool, this 11-inch glass can hold up to 25 ounces of wine (a 750 ml bottle) at once. And while definitely a conversation starter, there's no word on how it affects the taste and general drinking experience.

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