Hangover remedies without scientific backing prove to be a headache, warns UK review
04 Jan 2022 --- Last weekend’s festivities no doubt saw reams of headachy revelers starting the new year with various hangover cures, which range from plant extracts and curcumin to probiotics and vitamins.
However, a new UK systematic review has found only very low-quality evidence that substances claiming to treat or prevent alcohol-induced hangover work.
Therefore, the researchers from King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust are calling for more rigorous scientific exploration of the effectiveness of these remedies for hangovers.
This would provide practitioners and the public with accurate, evidence-based information on which to make their decisions.
“Hangover symptoms can cause significant distress and affect people’s employment and academic performance,” says lead author Dr. Emmert Roberts.
“Given the continuing speculation in the media as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest.”
Trending alcohol-friendly offerings
In the hours and days following heavy alcohol consumption, many people experience hangover symptoms such as fatigue, aches, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. As a result, there are a host of products that attempt to ward off these ailments.
Innova Market Insights reports that the most popular category for products mentioning “hangover” is Supplements, followed by Soft Drinks, Hot Drinks and Sports Nutrition (Global, 2017-2021).
Convenience positionings are popular, as well as Energy/Alertness and Antioxidant. The market researcher also notes that common ingredients are water, citric acid, vitamin C, magnesium and B vitamins.
One example in this space is Alcovit, which offers a combination of vitamins and minerals and has been certified in the EU as a medical device.
Meanwhile, H-Proof recently patented The Anytime You Drink Vitamin, marketed as supporting alcohol metabolism, promoting liver health and restoring vital nutrients.
ZBiotics has also patented its offering, which is an engineered probiotic drink that breaks down acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol responsible for some of the worst morning-after effects of drinking alcohol.
A diverse range of products
The new review, now published in Addiction, included 21 studies examining a range of products positioned as addressing the after-effects of alcohol.
These included curcumin, Duolac ProAP4 (probiotics), L-cysteine, N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), Rapid Recovery (L-cysteine, thiamine, pyridoxine and ascorbic acid), loxoprofen (loxoprofen sodium), SJP-001 (naproxen and fexofenadine) and Phyllpro (Phyllanthus amarus).
Also under the microscope were Clovinol (extract of clove buds), Hovenia dulcis Thunb. fruit extract (HDE), polysaccharide-rich extract of Acanthopanax (PEA), red ginseng, Korean pear juice, L-ornithine, prickly pear, artichoke extract, Morning-Fit (dried yeast, thiamine nitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride and riboflavin), propranolol, tolfenamic acid, chlormethiazole and pyritinol.
“Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality, and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment. For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation,” says Roberts.
All of the studies included in the review were placebo-controlled and randomized, and some of the studies did show statistically significant improvements in hangover symptoms.
However, the researchers say all evidence was of very low quality due to methodological limitations or imprecise measurements.
In addition, no two studies reported on the same hangover remedy and no results have been independently replicated.
The studies were generally limited in their reporting of the nature and timing of alcohol challenge that was used to assess the hangover cures. There were also considerable differences in the type of alcohol given and whether it was given alongside food.
Therefore, future studies should be more rigorous in their methods, for example, by using validated scales to assess hangover symptoms.
Another key issue with many studies is the lack of female inclusion. Notably, eight studies were conducted exclusively with male participants. Therefore, the researchers highlight the need to improve the participation of women in hangover research.
In 2020, a German study with both men and women found that plant extracts in combination with vitamins and minerals help alleviate hangover-related headaches by 34 percent and nausea by 42 percent.
However, More Labs’ Morning Recovery dietary supplement previously saw its hangover recovery claims come under fire from the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
By Katherine Durrell
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