An amino acid alleviates hangover symptoms

Recently completed research demonstrates that L-cysteine, an amino acid marketed as a food supplement, reduces hangover symptoms.

Many people are familiar with experiencing a hangover the day after consuming alcohol, with nausea, headache and anxiety among the associated symptoms. These symptoms cause significant problems globally in the form of impaired function, for example, at workplaces.

In a study published in the Alcohol and Alcoholism journal, researchers from the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland have demonstrated that the amino acid L-cysteine can be used to alleviate the hangover symptoms resulting from alcohol consumption.

In the double-blind study, headed by Peter Eriksson, docent in biochemistry, the study subjects consumed alcohol in three separate sessions. In addition to alcohol, the subjects swallowed tablets containing either a placebo, 600 mg of L-cysteine or 1,200 mg of L-cysteine. All of the tablets, excluding the placebo tablets, also contained vitamins. During the sessions, the concentration of alcohol and its metabolites was measured in the subjects by taking breath samples. Additionally, the subjects completed a questionnaire in the morning following the alcohol consumption, used to assess the severity of their hangover symptoms.

L-cysteine reacts with acetaldehyde, the first metabolite of ethanol. Acetaldehyde is a toxic substance that causes significant part of the hangover symptoms and is also a carcinogen. A statistically significant link between L-cysteine and the alleviation of hangover symptoms was observed in the study. The effect was the same for all relevant symptoms. In other words, L-cysteine alleviated headache, nausea, stress and anxiety.

This is the first study globally where a simple amino acid such as L-cysteine has been found to alleviate hangover symptoms.

From the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Science, contributions to the study were made by Markus Metsälä, university lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, and master’s level student Joonas Salminen.

The study was funded by Catapult Cat, a Finnish company that markets a food supplement containing L-cysteine.


L-Cysteine Containing Vitamin Supplement Which Prevents or Alleviates Alcohol-related Hangover Symptoms: Nausea, Headache, Stress and Anxiety, C J Peter Eriksson, Markus Metsälä, Tommi Möykkynen, Heikki Mäkisalo, Olli Kärkkäinen, Maria Palmén, Joonas E Salminen, Jussi Kauhanen. Alcohol and Alcoholism, agaa082,

Further information:

Peter Eriksson, docent

Email: peter.cj.eriksson@helsinki

Markus Metsälä, university lecturer