For many Canadians preparing to go camping or cabin for the last long weekend of summer, a bottle of Bloody Caesar Mix is a must-have.
It is a ritual dedicated to Labor Day. And, for some, it’s also essential – in case they do end up having a hangover – to have the dog’s hair on hand. New search from Finland, however, suggests we’d better leave the clam juice at home and instead pack an amino acid called L-cysteine.
Of course, the best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink excessively. It’s pretty much infallible. The second best way, according to the University of Helsinki study, might be to take a healthy dose of L-cysteine before going to bed. Then, while we sleep, the amino acid works its magic by binding to acetaldehyde, the metabolite responsible for much of the pain and discomfort associated with the next morning.
The study saw 19 people give up six successive Friday nights to sit in a hotel and drink excessive (but carefully controlled) amounts of alcohol mixed with lingonberry juice until they went to bed. Some were given placebos, while others were given doses of L-cysteine mixed with B vitamins. The group that got the cocktail of vitamins and amino acids fared better the next day, although they did. ‘this is only a correlational study.
Since I have been taking N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), a similar compound, to prevent hangovers for almost two years, I was happy to see that the effectiveness of this amino acid was not maybe not entirely in my head. I started adding it to my hangover prevention regimen (B12 and an anti-inflammatory before bed on the very rare occasions when I had reason to worry about having had one of trop) after interviewing Toronto writer Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall about his book “Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for a Cure.”
As the title suggests, Bishop-Stall has spent nearly a decade researching and experimenting on himself. Although he recently told me that he was still tweaking the formula, he took half a dozen things after drinking (but before bed) and stressed the importance of NAC which did he pointed out, wasn’t exactly a new idea. He was also not surprised by the results of the study.
“The point is, I know it works because I did my own tests for a long time,” says Bishop-Stall. “It’s also included in almost every mass market hangover control product that has been produced over the past 30 years. One that came out a few years ago even says on the bottle that it uses the power of cysteine.
Over the years, Bishop-Stall estimates that he has had as many as 100 friends and acquaintances to try the NAC, which is more than any scientific trial to our knowledge. These aren’t double-blind controlled trials, of course, so they don’t really matter. Unfortunately, there aren’t many that matter, as hangover research is relatively new and rather difficult to conduct. Assessing the severity of a hangover involves some subjectivity.
In addition, you need to find people who are willing to drink too much. This problem arose with the Finnish study, which was already a small sample, but reduced to 19 when people gave up after deciding they couldn’t drink the amount of alcohol needed to cause a hangover. drink.
Still, if NAC works, you might think that a million market reviews could have confirmed its effectiveness, given that it is on the market in many forms. Unfortunately, people don’t necessarily take it correctly; dose and timing are essential. The study found that a dose of 1200 mg was associated with reduced nausea, headaches, stress and anxiety.
And then there is the matter of when you pass the NAC. If you already have hangover symptoms, it’s probably already too late.
“With commercial products, people weren’t necessarily educated on the dose,” says Bishop-Stall. “And you have to take it before you go to sleep (not the next morning). For it to really work, it needs to be taken before the body begins this whole withdrawal system. “
Some may wonder if we should really be devoting our precious research resources to curing a disease that is decidedly self-inflicted. Others might argue that a hangover is a natural way to keep us from drinking too much. I have certainly thought about these topics.
The Finnish study, however, refutes both of these criticisms by presenting L-cysteine as a harm reduction tool. First of all, acetaldehyde is carcinogenic, so binding it to L-cysteine may reduce the long-term incidence of alcohol-related cancer.
Perhaps more importantly, it could keep people away from the next day’s drinks, a misguided but popular hangover cure. Not only is it bad for the liver to consume more alcohol the next day, it is the kind of behavior that can lead to alcoholism.
It is possible that the days of dog hair are numbered. Don’t worry though, the vacationers. You can still enjoy a Bloody Caesar this weekend. Just maybe try not to use it as a hangover cure.