Sun, 31 May 2020

As an adult following the stay-at-home recommendations who also enjoys an occasional adult beverage, the "quarantini" Twitter post - a proposed cocktail of gin and Emergen-C, a fizzy vitamin supplement - definitely caught my eye. The Emergen-C people immediately responded to the tweet: "We do not recommend taking any of our products with alcohol."

Still, as a registered dietitian, I wondered if something like this could work as an immune-boosting concoction. Or might it be harmful? To answer these questions, I first needed to review the nutritional makeup of the cocktail's ingredients.

What's in the quarantini

Alcoholic beverages primarily consist of water, pure alcohol, chemically known as ethanol, and sugars, or carbohydrates. And because the presence of proteins, vitamins and minerals is negligible, cocktails are considered empty calories. But Emergen-C contains a massive amount of vitamin C along with other vitamins and minerals - folate, thiamine, niacin, magnesium and potassium.

So score zero for the alcohol and one for the vitamin fizzy. Maybe mixing the goodness of one with the not-so-good of the other makes the final product pretty good? Perhaps. But that depends on your answer to this question: Will I be satisfied with just one glass of this delightfully sweet and effervescent treat? Or will I be tempted to have another? If your answer is the latter, you may go from harmless to harmful real quick.

One at most, definitely not two

Why? As soon as you're beyond the daily limit for alcohol, you're likely weakening your immune system. This more or less wipes out the benefits of the fizzy vitamin supplement. Also, you could experience some extremely unpleasant side effects from an excessive amount of vitamins. For example, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps and other gastrointestinal disturbances can occur with high vitamin C intake.

One little packet of Emergen-C contains over 1,000% of the daily value of vitamin C. And while the Emergen-C people didn't specify why they advised against mixing their product with alcohol, it might be because folks will indeed drink more than one cocktail - and go beyond the product's recommended daily serving.

My cautionary tale, that moderation is key, admittedly sounds like a broken record. The word "moderation" is thrown around way too much. Now most people don't know what it means: "Small fries, please."

As for the quarantini, moderation means enjoy one at your next virtual happy hour, if you want. But leave it at that. And if you really want an immune boost, eat plenty of produce, drink lots of water and get enough rest. Not as sexy as a night of quarantinis, but it's safe, tried and true.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for The Conversation's newsletter.]

Author: Katherine Basbaum - Clinical Nutritionist, Cardiology, University of Virginia The Conversation

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