Many of us are familiar with the term ‘digestif’. It’s an alcoholic drink enjoyed after a meal that, so we’re led to believe, helps our body digest the food. And Cognac is the King of Digestifs, it has to be said.
But–and here’s the million-dollar question–does a snifter of Hennessy, Courvoisier, or whatever your favorite brand might be, really aid the digestion process? Well, let’s take a look at the truth behind the commonly held belief that it’s good to drink Cognac after dinner.
What is a ‘digestif’?
So, first things first. A digestif such as Cognac is so named because after a meal (and in most cases, this would be a hearty meal), the digestive system–or stomach–is full of the food you’ve just eaten.
The theory behind drinking a digestif is that it stimulates various organs to increase their production of secretions that aid digestion. This includes the production of an enzyme called Pepsin in the stomach, and other secretions of the pancreas and the gall bladder. These can then get to work on digesting the food that’s making you feel full.
Does drinking Cognac after dinner actually have benefits?
Well, there is some substance behind this commonly held belief. Alcohol does help with the production of such enzymes and secretions in the body. However–and we hate to burst such a well believed bubble–Cognac, and the like, actually has an adverse effect on the digestive process. Luckily, we have a professional at hand. Our cousin, who sadly cannot be named here (we would recommend him to everyone if we could!), is a an amazingly skilled general practitioner. He told us that
while Cognac will animate your liver to work much much faster than usual, it does in fact slow down the digestion. The reason for this is because the alcohol relaxes the stomach lining. The Cognac is not actually helping your food to be digested, but the relaxation in your stomach is what gives you that satisfied (less full) feeling.
One other thing he pointed out–and this might be appreciated by our body conscious female Cognac fans–as Cognac slows down digestion after a hearty meal, it means you won’t be hungry for that decadent (and caloric) desert…
If you want to drink an alcohol purely to assist your body digest a meal, you’d be better off choosing a herb based drink, such as Fernet Branca or Jaegermeister.
But before you click away from this page in disappointment, all is not lost. There’s no reason why you should be locking your Cognac cabinet and throwing away the key just yet. Because, thankfully, there is some pretty strong evidence that Cognac does have some beneficial health benefits after all.
Scientific proof that Cognac is the best digestif!
OK, so we’re not scientists. And we’re certainly not doctors. But we’ve done some research into some studies that have been carried out as to the potential health benefits of drinking Cognac.
A small study carried out in 2008 by Biomed Central studied the effects of Cognac on the levels of antioxidants in the body. They used an un-named Remy Martin Cognac for the study (we’d like to think that they splashed out on at least the Remy Martin XO Excellence, or even a Louis XIII–you can get it in miniature from our online shop, just fyi) that was carried out on healthy young men in their 20s. The study suggested that a moderate intake of Cognac is likely to increase the levels of antioxidants your blood can absorb. And these in turn have a positive effect on free radicals that cause untold damage to the body. So let’s give a hearty three cheers to the scientists at Biomed Central for that bit of information.
Of course, the study used Remy Martin Cognac. But we’re pretty sure that if you choose to drink De Luze, or Delamain, or Bisquit–or whatever–would have the same positive effect. There’s also some moderate proof that the consumption of alcohol (and Cognac is mentioned in particular) might have a beneficial effect on your cardio vascular health in general.
So, although we can’t find any proof that drinking Cognac as a digestif has a positive effect on the process of digestion, we have to say that in our personal opinion, we love settling back with a glass of Cognac after a good meal. And hey – generations of people before us can’t all be wrong, can they? And as for other health benefits that accompany drinking our favorite spirit? Well, it seems that science may well be on our side on this occasion. After all, let’s not forget that science is a dynamic beast. One minute it’s telling us that something is bad for us, and the next it’s good! Who knows. In the next 10 or 20 years they might be prescribing Cognac to everyone over the legal drinking age… (OK, welcome to our fantasy world). But seriously, enjoying a little of your favorite drink in moderation is good for body, mind, and soul. And don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Let’s all raise a glass to the health benefits–fictitious or real–to the humble Cognac!