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Acetaldehyde and Hangovers

Acetaldehyde and Hangovers

Common wisdom states that dehydration is the primary cause of hangovers, however this is incorrect. While dehydration is definitely a contributing factor, the majority of hangover symptoms are caused by the buildup of a toxic molecule known as acetaldehyde.

What is Acetaldehyde?

Acetaldehyde is a highly toxic molecule formed as a byproduct of alcohol metabolism in the liver. Over 30 times more toxic than alcohol, acetaldehyde has a number of negative health effects including brain damage and toxicity to the respiratory, endocrine, and immune systems.

It has been shown to cause damage to the membranes of red blood cells, making it difficult for them to pass through small capillaries, and can also impair the ability to hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell which transports oxygen, to function properly. Acetaldehyde also prevents tubulin from forming microtubules in the brain. This is harmful because microtubules play an important role in supporting the healthy function of dendrites, which are the connections in between brain cells. In addition to this, it has been found to be a human carcinogen which is linked to nose and throat cancer.

Acetaldehyde is believed to play a large role in chemical dependency to alcohol, because opiate-like biochemicals are formed in the brain when acetaldehyde reacts with two of the most prevalent neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. The reaction of acetaldehyde with dopamine forms salsolinol and its reaction with serotonin forms beta-carboline, both of which have been shown to have addictive properties.

Many scientists now believe that acetaldehyde is one of the main causes of hangovers. Evidence of this can be seen by the effects of the anti-alcoholism drug Antabuse, which prevents the liver from breaking down acetaldehyde and causes levels of it to buildup quickly. When Antabuse is taken, acetaldehyde levels grew so quickly that acetaldehyde toxicity set in shortly after the first drink causing immediate hangover symptoms such as severe headaches and vomiting. The rationale behind the use of Antabuse is that the immediate hangover symptoms would be so severe that even alcoholics would be wary of having another drink for fear of making the negative side effects even worse.

How Does Drinking Cause Acetaldehyde Buildup?

When alcohol enters the bloodstream it eventually reaches the liver where the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase breaks it down into other molecules, one of which is acetaldehyde.

Once present, acetaldehyde is then broken down by another enzyme, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, into harmless acetic acid. In a similar way that it takes the liver about an hour to process one standard drink, it also takes time for the liver to completely purge the acetaldehyde formed from breaking down the alcohol previously ingested. This means that the liver will still be removing acetaldehyde from the body well after the last drink has been consumed.

Alcohol Metabolism

How Dihydromyricetin Reduces Acetaldehyde Toxicity

Dihydromyricetin succeeds in preventing hangover where all previous supplements have failed because it is the only supplement with a mechanism of action that directly works to purge acetaldehyde from the body at a faster rate. A primary effect of Dihydromyricetin is to improve the effectiveness of the enzymes alcohol and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. [1][2][3]

As explained in the last section, these enzymes are what allows the body to break down alcohol and acetaldehyde. When Dihydromyricetin is taken after a long night of drinking it speeds up the ability of these enzymes, quickly clearing alcohol and acetaldehyde from the body and giving acetaldehyde less time to cause the damage that eventually leads to hangovers.

This isn't Dihydromyricetin's only helpful benefit, however. It has also been shown to block the effect of alcohol on the brain, helping it to more quickly recover from another contributing cause of hangovers, short-term alcohol withdrawal [4]

Cited Sources

  1. Influence of Hovenia dulcis DHM on alcohol concentration in blood and activity of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) of animals after drinking
  2. Pharmacological potential of ampelopsin (DHM) in Rattan tea
  3. Protection Against Acetaldehyde Toxicity in the Rat
  4. Dihydromyricetin as a novel anti-alcohol intoxication medication

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