Hangover supplement eases drunk volunteers’ nausea and headaches

·2-min read
Young man suffering from strong headache or migraine sitting with glass of water in the kitchen, millennial guy feeling intoxication and pain touching aching head, morning after hangover concept
The NHS recommends staying hydrated to avoid, and ease, a hangover. (Image posed by model, Getty Images)

Whether it’s a full English or hair of the dog, many have a go-to remedy to ease a sore head after a night out.

While the NHS recommends painkillers and staying hydrated, scientists from the University of Helsinki found a dose of the naturally-occurring amino acid L-cysteine – found in meat, dairy and eggs – may do the trick.

Nineteen healthy male volunteers drank 1.5 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight over three hours. In the UK, one unit contains 8g of alcohol. A pint of 4% beer or 175ml glass of 13% wine are around 2.3 units.

The men were then asked to swallow either a placebo or L-cysteine supplement enriched with vitamins.

Read more: Prickly pear, cherry and ginger supplement could cure a hangover

The study – partially funded by supplement manufacturer Catapult Cat Oy – revealed a 1,200mg dose of L-cysteine was enough to reduce or even eliminate nausea and headaches.

A 600mg tablet left the men feeling less anxious and stressed the next day, the results revealed.

L-cysteine is thought to neutralise the hangover-inducing compound acetaldehyde, produced by the liver when it breaks down alcohol.

Man holding a pill and a glass of water.
An L-cysteine supplement could reduce or even eliminate nausea and headaches after a night of heavy drinking, research suggests. (Image posed by model, Getty Images)

Writing in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, the scientists believe L-cysteine could even help people drink less.

“The fact of the matter is that higher degree of alcohol-related hangover and stress symptoms lead to more ‘curing’ the aftereffects by drinking alcohol,” they wrote.

“This is especially the case with individuals with predisposition for developing alcohol addiction.”

Read more: Alcohol ‘fuelling rise in violence' in over-50s

This may be particularly beneficial in Finland, where 500,000 of its 5.5 million residents are “considered at risk from excessive drinking”, Bloomberg reported.

In the UK, excessive alcohol consumption was the main reason for 358,000 hospital admissions in 2018/19, nearly a fifth (19%) higher than a decade earlier.

Six people die a day on average from alcohol poisoning in the US, more than three quarters (76%) of whom are men.

The scientists believe L-cysteine brought about the supplement’s positive effects, rather than the vitamins it was enriched with. Further research is required, however, they added.

Read more: Alcohol behind hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions in England every year

The participants were recruited via advertisements, however, not all were able to drink the intended amount of alcohol and had to be excluded.

Some also had a higher tolerance for alcohol and experienced no hangover symptoms, while others reportedly topped up their drinks at the bar, researcher Markus Metsälä told local media.

There was no significant difference in alcohol consumption between the L-cysteine and placebo groups.