There’s a conference in Seattle this weekend on hangover cures — the people that study that stuff feel looked down upon in the broader alcohol science community, because the real foci is effects on the liver and other body parts — and ahead of said conference, Quartz interviewed Richard Stephens, who’s been researching hangovers for a decade or so. A couple of interesting things emerged: first, even though no 32 year-old would think this, hangover severity actually decreases with age. Then there’s this, on what we actually know about hangovers:
Do we know what causes hangovers?
Not completely, but there’s definitely some fairly good evidence. One component is the way that alcohol is metabolized. When you drink alcohol, there’s an enzyme in the body that breaks down the ethanol in alcohol into metabolites—after you’ve had a drink of alcohol and felt drunk, once you start to feel sober again, that’s because your body has metabolized the ethanol. But once the ethanol has been metabolized, there are usually other alcohols in smaller quantities in alcoholic beverages. One such compound is methanol, and when the body metabolizes methanol, it metabolizes it into toxins—formaldehyde and formic acid. And those make you feel ill, sort of poison you a little bit.
Not usually. But the interesting thing is that one of the most effective hangover cures are ones that administer glucose. One of the other mechanisms of the hangover is to do with glucose metabolism and not having enough blood sugar. In Britain one of the most prevalent hangover cures is a big fried breakfast—fried eggs, sausages, baked beans, and all the rest—that’s well-renowned as a hangover cure in Britain, and it probably does work because there are lot of carbohydrates in that meal. And that will restore depleted sugar levels.