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One Major Side Effect of Drinking Hard Seltzer, Says Expert

Hard seltzer is so prolific that it's easy to forget one major side effect of sipping on it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

'Tis the season for hard seltzer, and there's no shortage of brands to add to your grocery cart. Look no further than the new releases popping up at Costco warehouses and convenience store chains. Indeed, hard seltzer is so prolific that it's easy to forget one major side effect of sipping on it.

If you remember how Mike's Hard Lemonade blew the market away when it dropped in 1999, it's impressive to consider how much the "hard" soft drink category has grown in the decades since. After only a few years on the market, White Claw is officially the No. 1 U.S. hard seltzer brand. Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reported today that it "already sits fifth on a national list of most popular drinks, ahead of beer behemoths like Corona and Budweiser."

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The sudden, massive swell of hard seltzer offered those who imbibe a thrilling alternative to beer, wine, and liquor that also happened to have less calories. (Fans notably dubbed 2019 the "White Claw Summer.") But just because the marketing tout nutritional buzzwords doesn't mean they're safe to chug.

Many hard seltzer brands on the market are advertised as gluten-free, low-calorie, and low in sugar (or free from the sweet stuff altogether). Some of them even claim to be beneficial for your health or tout "functional" ingredients that energize, hydrate, or the like.

All these qualities might make it tempting to conveniently forget that even though hard seltzers go down smooth, they're still alcoholic beverages. Most that we've seen or sampled have a minimum of 4.5% alcohol by volume (or what the can refers to as "ABV"). An alcohol content like this puts hard seltzer neck-and-neck with light beers like Michelob Ultra. While it's great that there's a category of alcoholic beverage out there that's less likely to tip the scale, what's in the can can still get you drunk.

Dr. Nicole Avena, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a visiting professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. Avena recently shared a story with the Eat This, Not That! team of an individual who mistook a can of hard seltzer for actual seltzer water. "They look like regular seltzer!" Avena exclaimed, which highlights a key takeaway.

"I think we need to have more visibility on the alcohol content in hard seltzer," Avena said, adding that "many brands aren't very clear with the ingredients, and if you look quickly, you might accidentally think it is just plain old seltzer."

Even if you do know better, you might swig just due to the fact that any drink with the word "seltzer" makes imbibing feel a lot more carefree. However, it's still just as important to sip responsibly. Check out 5 things that happen to your body when you drink hard seltzer, then keep reading:

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more