Can these enzymes be the last call for hangovers?

Can these enzymes be the last call for hangovers?

UCLA scientists find an enzyme combo that helps fight hangovers when taken (by mice) before a night out, or after the last round. 

In a discovery that could quash sales of greasy breakfast specials across America, scientists have discovered an enzyme cocktail that speeds the elimination of alcohol from the body. "The pill acts in a way extremely similar to the way your liver does," said Yunfeng Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and principal investigator in the study. "With further research, this discovery could be used as a preventative measure or antidote for alcohol intoxication,” he said. The study was published online this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology.

In a study involving, apparently, an open bar at the rodent lounge, researchers used mice to test how well their enzyme combo worked both as an antidote to alcohol consumption as a preventative measure. They found that blood alcohol levels in mice that received the enzyme package fell more quickly than in mice that did not. Blood alcohol levels of the antidote test group were 15.8 percent lower than the control group after 45 minutes, 26.1 percent lower after 90 minutes and 34.7 percent lower after three hours. With the enzymes as a preventative, researchers found that blood alcohol levels in the mice that received the enzymes were 10.1 percent lower than in control-group mice after 45 minutes, 31.8 percent lower after 90 minutes and 36.8 percent lower after three hours. None of the mice, however, could accurately recall what had happened the night before. 

Hangovers cost the U.S. approximately $148 billion a year, according to a 2000 study by Jeffrey G. Weise, MD, noted on The same study found that 25 percent of college students reported that they'd had a hangover in the previous week. With an eye to this enormous (and queasy) market, manufacturers have been adding more and more options to the recovery drink category. One of the latest, Mercy, has an investor list including actress Gwyneth Paltrow, MTV founder Bob Pittman, NBA player Jared Jeffries, NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, and Richard Kimball, former managing director at Goldman Sachs and current Mercy chairman. Monster and Rockstar's Rehab and Recovery lines have been the fastest-growing part of the energy drink category, creating nearly $500 million in additional revenue last year.

Dr. Catherine Ulbricht, Co-Founder of the Natural Standard Research Collaboration and Senior Attending Pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told that she recommends prevention instead of treatment such as hangover cures. “They contain a wide array of ingredients, including, sometimes, high amount[s] of caffeine, and natural products not substantiated by science to be effective, so you are potentially taking a risk,” Ulbricht said of hangover cure products.

In the meantime, Lu and fellow UCLA researchers remain optimistic about the hangover-curing potential of their enzymes. No indication was made, however, of any progress toward a cure for beer goggling.

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