The role of alcohol metabolism in the pathology of alcohol hangover

Marlou Mackus, Aurora J.A.E. van de Loo, Johan Garssen, Aletta D. Kraneveld, Andrew Scholey, Joris C. Verster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The limited number of available studies that examined the pathology of alcohol hangover focused on biomarkers of alcohol metabolism, oxidative stress and the inflammatory response to alcohol as potentially important determinants of hangover severity. The available literature on alcohol metabolism and oxidative stress is reviewed in this article. The current body of evidence suggests a direct relationship between blood ethanol concentration and hangover severity, whereas this association is not significant for acetaldehyde. The rate of alcohol metabolism seems to be an important determinant of hangover severity. That is, fast elimination of ethanol is associated with experiencing less severe hangovers. An explanation for this observation may be the fact that ethanol—in contrast to acetaldehyde—is capable of crossing the blood–brain barrier. With slower ethanol metabolism, more ethanol is able to reach the brain and elicit hangover symptoms. Hangover severity was also significantly associated with biomarkers of oxidative stress. More oxidative stress in the first hours after alcohol consumption was associated with less severe next-day hangovers (i.e., a significant negative correlation was found between hangover severity and malondialdehyde). On the contrary, more oxidative stress at a later stage after alcohol consumption was associated with having more severe next-day hangovers (i.e., a significant positive correlation was found between hangover severity and 8-isoprostane). In conclusion, assessment of biomarkers of alcohol metabolism suggests that fast elimination of ethanol is associated with experiencing less severe hangovers. More research is needed to further examine the complex interrelationship between alcohol metabolism, the role of acetaldehyde and oxidative stress and antioxidants, and the pathology of the alcohol hangover.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3421
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Volume9
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 8-isoprostane
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Acetate
  • Alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Hangover
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Oxidative stress

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