Author: Martina Bodner ( scicommforeveryone@gmail.com )

Let’s imagine something together. It is Saturday morning (well… 1 P.M.), you have a headache and nausea, your eyes are hurting and you have thirsted. Your symptoms are clear: you are in hungover. 

But… what causes it? It may seem strange, but scientists still do not know exactly what causes it.

We know that ethanol (the magic molecule, which made us happy and uninhibited) is converted to acetaldehyde. This process is carried on in the liver by the enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde is then converted into acetate by the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase. Finally, acetate is metabolized in carbon dioxide and water and eliminated from our bodies. This is the way our body eliminated all the alcohol we ingested the night before. The liver can metabolize 8 grams of alcohol every hour. One pint of beer contains around 20 gm of alcohol, so do your math!

Leading causes of hangover symptoms are dehydration caused by the diuretic effect of alcohol, the toxicity of acetaldehyde, and the effect that ethanol has on our immune system, in particular on cytokines. In addition, it is important to mention the genetic diversity among humans. People from Asian origin produce less alcohol dehydrogenase, thus their liver is slower in metabolizing ethanol and their hungover symptoms could be more severe.

I am an Italian woman, born and raised in South Tyrol, so I know my beers and wines. I would be credible if I told you to stop drinking, but it is important to drink in a responsible manner. When we drink, we cause great stress to our liver, which is fundamental for so many other functions in our body. We don’t want to overload it. 

Do you know the origin of the term “hangover”?

In Victorian London, if you could not afford a place to sleep (usually because you spent all your money drinking), you could sleep hanged over a rope for just a penny. You could literally “hung-over” a rope.

About Author:

Martina is an enthusiastic science communicator and has her own blog, and pages on Instagram, and Twitter. She covers various topics, one must definitely visit and follow to learn some fascinating experiences she had and how interactively she shares them through her blog.

Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and ResearchGate

References:

  1. https://www.compoundchem.com/2016/01/01/hangover/
  2. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/curing-hangover
  3. https://www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/1052159/Chemistry_of_a_Hangover__Alcohol_and_its_Consequences.html 
  4. https://www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/1080019/Chemistry_of_a_Hangover__Alcohol_and_its_Consequences_Part_3.html  https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/why-we-get-hangovers/3007236.article
  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/chemistry-of-hangovers-2016-1?r=DE&IR=T
  6. https://scicommforeveryone.com/2019/12/11/antioxidants-in-red-wine/
  7. https://scicommforeveryone.com/2019/12/25/chemistry-of-wine/

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