Sprite cures hangovers?

I’m always a little skeptical of any claims for hangover cures beyond rest, fluids, and an aspirin to relieve symptoms of dehydration and sleep deprivation. But I’m also a sucker for a new study testing the effectiveness of various remedies—especially one that’s well designed and not funded by a product manufacturer.

This recent research from China published in the September 2013 issue of Food and Function appears to meet those criteria and suggests that Sprite could work better than 56 other beverages and various herbal teas to reduce the symptoms of a hangover. That’s because the non-caffeinated sugary beverage speeds the breakdown of alcohol from one toxic byproduct, acetaldehyde, into a more benign one, acetate.

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Too much acetaldehyde can cause nausea, upset stomach, and other hangover symptoms, while acetate isn’t associated with these symptoms.

The researchers from Sun Yat-Sen University’s School of Public Health, who received funding from their own institution, mixed alcohol with different sodas and teas along with enzymes produced by the body to break down alcohol into acetaldehyde and acetate.

They found that only Sprite (known in China as Xue bi) and a type of soda water effectively sped up alcohol metabolism to lower acetaldehyde and increase acetate. Some herbal teas, on the other hand, slowed metabolism and raised levels of acetaldehyde—potentially making hangover symptoms worse.

Next up: The researchers plan to perform this study in people—rather than lab beakers—to see if drinking Sprite while imbibing actually works to reduce hangover symptoms. But you don’t need to wait for those results to try it yourself. Let me know if it works.