Edible Gel Promises Hangover-Free Mornings

Edible Gel Promises Hangover-Free Mornings

Just how far would you be willing to go to avoid the dreaded hangover? Are you hungover right now reading this?

Researchers in Switzerland have developed an oral gel meant to prevent booze from breaking down into the toxic compounds most responsible for a hangover. In mice, it appeared to work as intended.

The gel was created by scientists from ETH Zurich. It’s primarily made from whey protein and is further infused with individual iron atoms and gold nanoparticles. Once ingested, the iron in the gel is designed to react with alcohol that reaches the stomach or intestines, causing it to break down into acetic acid, the main component of vinegar. This also should mean that the alcohol is prevented from turning into acetaldehyde in the liver (usually when we drink alcohol, it’s first converted into acetaldehyde, then later converted to acetic acid). Acetaldehyde is a well-known toxic byproduct of alcohol, and research has suggested that its lingering presence in our bloodstream following alcohol consumption plays a big role in causing hangovers.

“The gel shifts the breakdown of alcohol from the liver to the digestive tract. In contrast to when alcohol is metabolized in the liver, no harmful acetaldehyde is produced as an intermediate product,” said Raffaele Mezzenga, a professor from the Laboratory of Food & Soft Materials at ETH Zurich, in a statement from the university.

Mezzenga and his team tested the gel on boozed-up mice under two different scenarios. In the first, the mice were fed the gel just before a single dose of alcohol; in the second, the mice were given alcohol and the gel for ten days straight. Within 30 minutes of the single shot, the gel seemed to reduce the mice’s blood alcohol level by 40% compared to a control group, while also reducing levels of acetaldehyde. In the 10-day test, the gel appeared to not only lower acetaldehyde production but also reduce alcohol-induced weight loss and damage to the liver and other organs.

The team’s initial results, published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, are intended as a proof of concept. So it will take much more research, especially in humans, before we can know whether their gel is the real deal. And even if it does work as hoped, the gel would only be useful to take before or soon into a drinking session, not after alcohol has already entered the bloodstream. But given that the acetaldehyde produced by alcohol isn’t just a contributor to hangovers but other booze-related health problems, such as cancer, the team’s research could pay off in a major way.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers are careful to discourage the idea that their gel could be used to circumvent the risks of alcohol consumption entirely.

“It’s healthier not to drink alcohol at all. However, the gel could be of particular interest to people who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, but don’t want to put a strain on their bodies and aren’t actively seeking the effects of alcohol,” Mezzenga said.

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