Like the philosopher's stone, the cure for a hangover seems to exist only in legend.
The magical elixir has evaded even the most determined of scientists, at least until now.
Chinese researchers applied themselves to the problem from another angle, looking into how a hangover could be handled before it even started.
And they claim they have found an answer: Sprite.
It is believed that some of the nastier symptoms of a hangover are not actually caused by the alcohol itself, but by the process of the body trying to break down the alcohol.
This is why the 'hair of the dog' is sometimes thought to work in staving off a hangover, because it prevents the body from continuing to break down the alcohol.
After drinking, the body goes through a two stage metabolic process to break down the ethanol.
First the liver metabolises the ethanol into acetaldehyde through an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and then it breaks it down into acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
However while acetate is generally considered harmless and even responsible for some of the more beneficial effects of drinking, exposure to the more pernicious acetaldehyde actually causes the symptoms of a hangover, including nausea, vomiting and a headache.
Researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou examined the way a number of drinks affected the way the body metabolised alcohol.
Analysing 57 different drinks, including herbal infusions, teas, and carbonated beverages, they measured their effects on ADH and ALDH and discovered each brew had a different effect.
While some herbal teas slowed down the process, thus prolonging a hangover, Xue bi, a carbonated drink known as Sprite in Britain, was found to actually speed the enzyme’s work up. This means that Sprite could ease a hangover because it shortens the body's exposure to acetaldehyde.
The researchers plan to perform another independent study to ensure their test results can be considered conclusive. The results were published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Food and Function.
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