Fact Sheet

How the shape of a beer glass changes your drinking speed

U.K. researchers discover that suds lovers who drink from curved glasses guzzle their brews nearly twice as fast. But why?

Need to drink less? The secret may be in your choice of glassware. Researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom closely monitored the drinking habits of scores of imbibers, and found that people who drank beer from curvy glasses downed their brews almost twice as fast as revelers who took their beer in a straight glass. Here, a concise guide to the study:

What did researchers do, exactly?The team, which published its findings in the journal PLoS One, monitored 159 men and women. Subjects were given either a soft drink or a beer, and were instructed to drink at their regular pace. Some were given curved glasses to drink from while others were given straight ones. Each glass contained a half pint of liquid. 

And what did they discover?People drinking soda from either a curved or straight glass finished at around the same time. But for beer drinkers, it was a totally different story. People drinking suds from a straight glass took around 11 minutes to finish. Subjects drinking from a curved glass, on the other hand, only needed seven minutes to polish their drinks off. That means "drinking time is slowed by almost 60 percent" when using a straight glass, even if the amount of alcohol present is the same, write researchers.

Why is this?The team hypothesized that drinkers unconsciously monitor how much alcohol they ingest (the same is not true for soda), and that a glass' curvy shape makes it harder to correctly judge how much beer is left. To test this, they showed pictures of partially-filled beer mugs to participants and asked if they were more or less than half full. They found that people were more likely to get the answer wrong when assessing the amount of leftover beer in curved glassware. In other words, "they are unable to judge how quickly they are drinking [from curvy glasses]," Dr. Angela Attwood, the study's lead researcher, tells the BBC. As a result, it's much harder for them to pace themselves.

So... what now?In the United Kingdom, binge drinking is a "growing problem, particularly among young people," says Emily Underwood at Science Now, and there's a discernible link between excessive drunkenness and criminal activity. While it's near impossible to stop people from drinking, you can encourage them to make more informed choices, such as requesting their brew of choice in a straight glass. Perhaps manufacturers of curved glasses should put halfway markers on their products to "aid sensible drinking," says NHS.

Sources: BBC, Dvice, NHS, Science Now

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