Going vegan 'might make your hangovers worse'

Vegetarians and vegans could suffer worse hangovers than people who eat meat, suggests a new study.

Experts in the Netherlands analysed how our diets impact how awful we feel the morning after drinking.

They looked at how certain nutrients help to speed up the ‘metabolism’ of alcohol, breaking it down and eliminating it from the body, the idea being that if you can eliminate alcohol more quickly your hangover won’t be as awful.

They found that those with diets rich in zinc and niacin – both easy to get plenty of through meat and animal products – enjoyed the least severe hangovers.

Vegans and vegetarians were more likely to be low in zinc and niacin, better known as vitamin B3. Those who had diets that weren’t heavy on the zinc and B3 had worse hangovers.

The researchers believe that zinc and niacin aid in the ‘rapid elimination’ of ethanol and acetaldehyde, which could reduce the presence and severity of a hangover.

A group of healthy test subjects aged between 18 and 30 were tasked with getting drunk, consuming an average of 11.3 beverages each. At 9am the next morning, hangovers were rated on a scale from zero to ten, taking into account those classic struggles such as headaches, nausea, regret, sleepiness, heart pounding, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, and reduced appetite.

The precise details of each person’s diet were also recorded.

Lead study author Dr Joris Verster, of Utrecht University, said: ‘The results showed that dietary intake of nicotinic acid and zinc were significantly and negatively associated with overall hangover severity.

‘Dietary zinc intake was also significantly and negatively associated with severity of vomiting.

‘No significant associations with hangover severity were found for other nutrients, such as fat and fibers.

‘In conclusion, this study suggests that social drinkers who have a higher dietary intake of nicotinic acid and zinc report significantly less severe hangovers.’

To be clear, though, there are lots of other factors that can impact how terrible you feel the morning after a big night.

Age, general wellbeing, how much you drank, how much sleep you’ve had – all of these play a part and it’s really not as simple as saying everyone should eat loads of meat to rid themselves of a pounding headache and a sense of dread.

And bear in mind: there’s still no officially recognised ‘cure’ for a hangover. Your best way to prevent a hangover is to, well, not drink alcohol.

Dr Diana Gall, of Doctor 4 U, said: ‘This study suggests you may be able to lessen the impact of a hangover but there’s generally no ‘cure’ to prevent you getting one at all.

‘You should never drink more than you know your body can cope with – and knowing your limits is particularly important at this festive time of year.

‘And the key to hangover recovery is hydration. Try to drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. You should also rehydrate before going to sleep.’

If you are keen to up your zinc and niacin and see if you feel any better, though, there are plenty of foods you can stock up on.

Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, and dairy, but vegans don’t have to miss out – lentils, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, too.

Niacin, meanwhile, is in meat, fish, eggs and milk. Vegans can go for nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereals, muesli, and wild rice.

Niacin cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.

You’re not doomed to deficiencies or terrible hangovers just because you go vegan. Just make sure to plan your food carefully to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need.

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