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The Belarusians are the biggest drinkers in Europe by most reports, but this is understandable because the government does not allow them to pursue happiness and all that is good. This makes them bored and frustrated, which leads them to drink. Plus, a healthy lifestyle is just not very popular there, which is why there are common times that Yuri is asked to keep establishing it.
Moldovans rank second in terms of alcohol consumption, and this is understandable as they are considered the most unhappy country in the world. Their greatest source of pride is that they have lots of beautiful fruit, which is barely enough to lift your spirits every day.
Somewhere up the ranking below, either third or fourth, are the Finns, but they seem to drink for a completely different reason ̵
A recent study at the University of Helsinki, the results of which were picked up and disseminated by the lay press around the world, concluded that taking the amino acid L-cysteine was effective in eliminating hangovers after an evening of heavy drinking.
Did the Finns really do that? Have you found a way to alleviate the suffering of millions of excess alcohol? Perhaps. Let’s look carefully at what they did and what they found.
Before we look at study protocols, results, or interpretations, I must point out that Catapult Cat Oy, a company that makes the L-cysteine supplement used in the study, funded the researchers. That doesn’t necessarily negate any results, but there is a good reason to keep an eyebrow raised while they are being interpreted.
So yes, the study. They recruited 19 healthy male volunteers to drink 1.5 grams of alcohol per kilogram (about 4.8 ounces for a 200 pound man) over three hours.
(A number of women showed interest in participating, but it didn’t work out. One of them didn’t show up after the first session. Three did not respond to hangover symptoms in all three sessions. One was “at different stages from” the normal menstrual cycle “, and another was on long-term steroid treatment and was sick before drinking even started.)
The study was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. All 19 men randomly swallowed 6 placebo tablets, 3 placebo plus 3 L-cysteine tablets and / or 6 L-cysteine tablets in three separate sessions. On each occasion, one capsule was taken 15 minutes before 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 a.m. for 6 consecutive Friday evenings (although drinking stopped after only three hours).
Each capsule contained 200 mg. of L-cysteine, so those on the high end were taking 1200 mg. the amino acid.
The next morning, the men who took the 6 capsules of the L-cysteine supplement had fewer alcohol-related hangover symptoms (nausea, headache, stress, and anxiety) than those who took 3 capsules or took placebo.
In addition, the men who took the largest amount of the supplement reported less desire to drink, which, if applicable, could have a tremendous impact on reducing the risk of alcohol addiction.
Let’s take a look under the covers
The researcher didn’t find the supplement cleared alcohol from the system any faster, but it did help eliminate acetaldehyde, an alcohol metabolite that is responsible for many of alcohol’s harmful effects.
Still, the study was a bit of a mess. This is where that raised eyebrow comes in. When you read the liner notes, you see some strange things, some even weird. Some of the participants were unable to drink all of the alcohol prescribed. Some were so “tolerant” of alcohol that they never had a hangover at all.
Others were excluded from the final results because they left the research session and went to the bar where they continued to drink. Oy.
Second, the L-cysteine supplement also contained thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, cobalamin, and vitamin C. Who says the supplement’s supposed beneficial effects were not at least partially caused by the B-? Complex and Vitamin C Co-Hosts?
Finally, the researchers used a blender made from cranberry and currant juice, both of which are rich in polyphenolic compounds that could have further mitigated the effects of alcohol.
To really conclude that L-cysteine reduces or eliminates hangover symptoms, you’d have to do the same experiment (hopefully with test subjects who were a little more dedicated) with L-cysteine only, not a nutritionally complex matrix of vitamins and polyphenols.
Even so, L-cysteine is cheap, and if you are an excessively heavy drinker with accompanying hangovers, it is worth a try. Solgar makes a solid L-cysteine supplement. Try to take a 500 mg. One in the capsule just before you start drinking
in the middle of your drinking and one at the end of your drinking … if you can remember, that is.
Related: A Musclehead’s Guide to Alcohol
Related: Lifting & Alcohol – It’s not that bad
- CJ Peter Eriksson et al. “L-cysteine-containing vitamin that prevents or relieves alcohol-related hangover symptoms: nausea, headache, stress and anxiety”, Alcohol and Alcoholism, August 18, 2020.