Science

Could the shape of your glass stop you drinking too much beer?

Straight sides key to responsible alcohol consumption, says researchers

Researchers at the University of Bristol have suggested that the speed of our beer drinking depends on what we sup it from, and the shape of a pint glass can “be altered to nudge drinkers towards more responsible consumption”, at a time when drinking to excess remains a serious concern in the UK.

The historic British tradition of beer consumption has been a staple of the Gair Rhydd Science section this year, including the best quick fix for a hangover and absurd Japanese ale that claims to improve your looks. While drinking is seen as a right of passage for students across the country, you cannot ignore the costs both to our health and the NHS with, according to the World Health Organisation, alcohol consumption accounting for 3 million deaths around the world each year. In Wales, 1000 deaths every year are attributable to alcohol.

So new findings from Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, funded by Alcohol Research UK, has been most welcome. Dr Angela Attwood, senior researcher of the study, explained: “Our research suggests that small changes such as glass shape and volume markings can help individuals make more accurate judgements of the volume they are drinking and hopefully drinkers will use this information to drink at a slower pace.”

In a study of 160 men and women, half were given beer in curved glasses (think Stella or Carlsberg) with markings at each quarter. The other half got beer in curved glasses with no markings. Observing how quickly participants downed their beer, authors noted that people with the marked glasses finished a pint significantly slower.

To check this played out in a real-world setting, study authors carefully watched three pubs over two weekends, calculating how much beer was sold and what type of glass was used.  When an alcoholic beverage was served in a straight-sided glass instead of curved, sales were much lower. This indicates less alcohol consumption, according to the team.

David Troy, co-author said, “Excessive alcohol use is a major public concern and there is a lot of interest in alcohol control strategies. It is important to determine what environmental factors are contributing to excessive use.”

Attwood also added, “The speed at which beer is drunk can have a direct effect on the level of intoxication experienced. This can also increase how much is consumed in a single drinking session. While many people drink alcohol responsibly, it is not difficult to have ‘one too many’ and become intoxicated”.

Therefore, it may be that us students will benefit from changing glass shape to prevent overdoing it, a night of embarrassment and a hangover from hell.

Some scientists, however, are skeptical of this work. Dr Anna Lembke, director of the Addiction Medicine Program at Stanford University said, “There’s no doubt that context matters when it comes to alcohol and drug use. But a study showing that social drinkers drank the same amount of alcohol 1.2 minutes slower that drinkers with unmarked glasses is hardly meaningful.”

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