Beware this Veganuary - a plant-based diet may make hangovers worse

Woman laying in bed with headache
A plant-based diet may make hangovers worse. [Photo: Getty]

Those going vegan this month may also want to consider Dry January.

Scientists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands found people on a plant-based diet may suffer worse hangovers than their meat-eating counterparts.

READ MORE: Does some alcohol cause worse hangovers than others?

The team put this down to a deficiency in zinc and vitamin B3, two nutrients commonly found in animal products.

These are thought to play a role in the break down of ethanol - a chemical compound in alcohol - into the toxic substance acetaldehyde, which drives hangovers.

A speedier break down may result in hangover symptoms fleeing sooner, the scientists claim.

“Nicotinic acid [also known as vitamin B3] and zinc are required to break ethanol down into acetaldehyde,” Dr Rabia De LaTour, from NYU Langone Health, told the New York Post.

“You need these two nutrients to digest alcohol. It makes sense if you're lacking in it, you would experience a worse hangover.”

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Zinc is abundant in meat and shellfish, like oysters, as well as beans and lentils, the scientists wrote in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

Meat and fish are rich sources of vitamin B3, with plant-based sources including avocado, peanuts, whole grains and mushrooms.

Vitamin B3 deficiency is rare in developed countries but can arise in “chronic alcoholics”, with supplements even being suggested as a treatment for alcoholism, the scientists wrote.

To learn more about how diet affects the aftermath of drinking, the scientists analysed 23 people who identified as social drinkers, 10 of which claimed to be “hangover resistant”.

The participants were asked what they ate after a night of heavy drinking and following an alcohol-free day.

Nutrient intake was found to be the same for the hangover sufferers and those “resistant” to the ill effects.

After a night of drinking, all the participants were monitored for the classic signs of a hangover, namely headache, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations and a dislike of bright lights or loud noise.

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Results suggest low zinc and vitamin B3 levels were associated with the nasty symptoms.

A zinc deficiency in particular was linked to vomiting.

The scientists hope their study will one day lead to a “hangover cure”, with existing “treatments” lacking evidence.

They note, however, their study was small. It should therefore be repeated in a larger group, with nutrient deficiencies measured via urine or blood samples, they add.

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