Put aside that tomato juice and greasy breakfast for a moment: A new hangover cure is on the scene, backed by some chemical evidence — and chances are you’re already familiar with this beverage.
The carbonated lemon-lime drink Sprite emerged as a potential reliever of alcohol-related symptoms in a study published late last month in the journal Food & Function. Researchers in China conducted the research on the chemical causes and effects of a hangover, and how best to disrupt them.
Hangovers are commonly thought to be caused not by the alcohol itself in a drink, but by one of the chemical byproducts produced when our bodies metabolize ethanol. When we drink a boozy beverage, ethanol is broken down first into acetaldehyde, which causes the feelings of a hangover, and then into acetate, which is not only thought to be harmless in terms of hangover symptoms, but also may contain some of the health benefits of alcohol consumption, such as a jolt of energy for the brain.
Acetaldehyde, on the other hand, was the enemy in the China study, and researchers focused on how best to limit the body’s exposure to it in the process of digesting alcohol. They hypothesized that by acting on two key enzymes — one that breaks down ethanol into acetaldehyde (alcohol dehydrogenase), and subsequently the one that breaks acetaldehyde into acetate (aldehyde dehydrogenase) — that they could shorten the entire process and limit the effects of a hangover.
Hua-Bin Li and colleagues at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou systematically tested the effect a variety of common carbonated beverages and herbal teas had on ADH and ALDH, and measured levels and activity of the enzymes accordingly.
Some of the drinks tested, including a herbal infusion known as Huo ma ren (a hemp-seed based beverage), were found to increase the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase, hastening metabolism of ethanol into toxic acetaldehyde, while interestingly also inhibiting aldehyde dehydrogenase in the process, reducing acetaldehyde removal and possibly prolonging or worsening hangover and other alcohol-withdrawal symptoms.
By contrast, some drinks studied markedly increased aldehyde dehydrogenase activity, thus promoting rapid breakdown of acetaldehyde, possibly helping to minimize the harmful effects of drinking alcohol. Among these drinks were Xue bi and Hui yi su da shui, fizzy drinks better known in North America by their English names: Sprite and soda water, respectively.
Edzard Ernst, a medical expert at the University of Exeter in the U.K., says the results are interesting, but cautioned against an over-reliance on this “cure,” especially before the results can be independently replicated.
“These results are a reminder that herbal and other supplements can have pharmacological activities that can both harm and benefit our health,” he said.
Source – NationalPost