Fact/Fiction: Have scientists created the ultimate hangover cure?

Old news, truthfully retold. This week we discover whether the morning after a big booze-up is set to be an easier one

How it was told

With Christmas party season in full swing, what better time to unveil the ultimate hangover cure?

The scientists from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India, may well have rocketed up a few Christmas lists when they unveiled their latest research last week. Consider the ultimate hangover cure an early Christmas gift for all those festive excesses to come.

Surprise, surprise, the major media outlets in the UK were drinking in the news.

The Sun led the way with the pleasingly punny: “PEAR OF THE DOG The best hangover cure yet has been created by scientists – from pear juice” while Sky News insisted that the new cure means ditching old favourites with: “Ultimate hangover cure? Study says ditch the coffee and bacon sarnies”.

Some outlets tried the new cure for themselves. After their initial story of: “Is this the ultimate hangover cure? Scientists claim drinking coconut water, pear and lime – with a side of cheese, tomato and cucumber – helps the body break alcohol down faster”, Mail Online put the new cure through its paces. Their follow-up “Does the ‘hangover cure’ juice really work? FEMAIL tests the scientifically backed blend of coconut, pear and lime to see if it can help with a sore head and nausea – with surprising results” concluded that those surprising results were – spoiler – that it worked but “stodgy food was still better”.

The Daily Telegraph also tested it out in: “The best – and worst – foods to have on a hangover” while the Daily Mirror opted for: “Scientists develop the ultimate hangover cure – here’s how to make it yourself”.

But is it really the ultimate hangover cure?

Facts. Checked

When it comes to the science there can be no argument here.

The researchers were very thorough in their tests, exhaustively assessing 52 fruits, vegetables, cereals, spices, milk products and other miscellaneous foods. The varied list included dragon fruit, onion, maize, black pepper, cheese and fenugreek seeds in its bid to banish bad heads after a night on the drink.

The exhaustive tests were to screen how food influenced alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activities. Long story short – they studied how ingesting each substance breaks down alcohol to halt the oxidative stress and acetaldehyde build-up that leads to a hangover. The result? A beverage made from a blend of sweet lime, pear and coconut water could be used to overcome a hangover. Academics also concluded that their study also “dispels the common belief that an antioxidant could serve as an anti-hangover product”.

But as Sky News, The Daily Telegraph and others pointed out, the foods closely associated with hangover recovery are often more of the stodgy, fatty kind. So while the scientists might have cracked the science of the ultimate hangover cure, there is more to it than just the science.

One of the main issues that count against the new ultimate hangover cure is that the main ingredients –pear juice, sweet lime and coconut water – are not mainstays in the majority of households. Especially not when compared to the contents of a fry-up – whether vegetarian or otherwise.

It could also be argued that fewer homes have the necessary equipment – juicers, smoothie makers and so on – to make the new cure.

Fry-ups remain extremely popular.  A YouGov poll in 2017 found that 83 per cent of English people say they enjoy a full English, while more than half say they like it a lot.

And the pollsters have also tackled the question of Brits’ favourite hangover cures. Unsurprisingly, drinking water came out on top, with 75 per cent of people quizzed opting for it. Painkillers followed at 46 per cent, ahead of eating toast and greasy food on 27 per cent each.

Drinking coffee came next with 24 per cent, while vitamin supplements languished at the bottom at seven per cent.

Who knows where the new hangover cure may fit into this pecking order, but it may need to do some convincing to earn its ultimate tag.

Illustration: Miles Cole