Chinese researchers have found that the effects of certain beverages, including Sprite, can alter the enzyme activity that breaks down the chemicals that are responsible for hangovers.
Hangovers really suck, and hangover cures never seem to work, but the solution may have been right in front of us the whole time: Chinese researchers claim that the carbonated soft drink Sprite may be just what the doctor ordered. The discovery comes after reevaluating exactly why we get hangovers. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the alcohol itself, in combination with dehydration, causes the hangover. Hua-Bin Li and a team of scientists from Sun Yat-Sen University in China, claim that the hangover is actually caused by acetaldehyde, the first product of ethanol metabolizing in the body, and not by the ethanol itself. When consuming alcohol, ethanol is metabolized into acetaldehyde by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Next, the acetaldehyde is metabolized into acetate by a different enzyme; aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Acetate may actually have some positive health effects. It’s the acetaldehyde we have to worry about.
The key to minimizing the health issues that arise from drinking, including the hangover, is to minimize the amount of time acetaldehyde is in your system. Hua-Bin La has hypothesized that if we consume substances that alter the activity of the ADH and ALDH enzymes, it will also affect the duration in which we’re exposed to acetaldehyde. His team went on to systematically test a number of beverages, including several popular carbonated drinks and herbal teas. Some drinks, such as the herbal infusion Huo ma ren, increased the ADH activity and decreased the ALDH activity, essentially increasing the expose to acetaldehyde and causing worse symptoms. However, carbonated water and Sprite were both found to do exactly what the researchers wanted; they increased the ALDH activity, thus speeding up the metabolism to acetate.
And people keep telling me soda is bad for me
Edzard Ernst, of the UNiversity of Exeter in the UK, finds the results interesting: “These results are a reminder that herbal and other supplements can have pharmacological activities that can both harm and benefit our health.” However, he won’t lend too much support to the finding until it can be independently verified.