By James Madeiros
Anyone who has ever taken a shot of whiskey knows that it starts a little fire in the tummy. The warmth radiates outward and many would even say that it “burns.”
But, is it really making you warmer, or is that just some kind of chemical reaction or mental trick?
The answer is that alcohol really does make you warmer – in a way. It doesn’t make you warm like a hot cup of coffee makes you warm, by pouring a liquid of a higher temperature into your body (unless you’re drinking a hot toddy). It makes you feel warmer.
That’s an important distinction to make, because once upon a time that warm feeling was associated with actual warmth, which helps explain the legend of rescue dogs that would carry brandy around their necks. The reality, though, is that alcohol will make you feel warmer while actually lowering your core temperature.
Alcohol dilates vessels and allows blood to move closer to the surface of the skin, which makes you feel warm. That same blood, however, is what was keeping your core warm before the booze coaxed it out into the elements. So, if you’re ever stranded in the Alps and the storied St. Bernard of old appears before you with brandy cask at the ready – don’t be tempted to partake.
A few nips from that bottle might just put you on the evening news, and not for your chops on the slalom. (Historical note: The brandy-carrying St. Bernard is a thing of myth and if you think you see one on the mountain it means you’re already in hypothermia’s icy grip.)
Legal Stuff: Of course, we should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).