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Caffeine could cure hangover headaches

1 February 2011

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Category: Research & medical benefits

white–gm–mice–mouse.jpgCaffeine and painkillers could be the most effective cure for a hangover headache, suggests new research on rats.

Researchers directly linked the chemical acetate to hangover headaches in rats. Caffeine, known to counteract the effects of acetate, was found to relieve the effects of alcohol.

Headaches were induced in rats using a small dose of ethanol - about the equivalent of a single alcoholic drink. Four to six hours later the rats were found to suffer headaches. The extent of the headache was judged by the sensitivity of the skin around the rats' eyes.

An 'inflammatory soup' had previously been administered to the rats' brains. This made the rats sensitive to headaches when given only a small quantity of alcohol, enabling researchers to study alcohol-induced headaches without the complications of intoxication.

Ethanol is converted into a chemical called acetaldehyde in the body, which is then quickly turned into another chemical called acetate. It was thought that a build up of acetaldehyde caused hangover headaches. However, the new research suggests that it is actually acetate that is responsible. Rats injected with acetate were found to suffer more severe headaches.

Further, when given caffeine, which can combat the effects of acetate, headaches were reduced in the rats. Anti-inflammatory drugs, from the same family as ibuprofen, were found to have a similar effect.

The rats were not dehydrated, suggesting that alcohol-induced headaches cannot simply be fixed by drinking water.