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Genetic reason why some people don’t suffer from a hangover after a drunken stupor

The end of the year is coming, and the toasts are multiplying. But after several “chin chins,” many of us mourned so much to the kulaps.

Acute headache, indigestion, fatigue and malaise are among the symptoms that cause a hangover.

However, this does not happen to everyone: some lucky ones do not suffer the next day if they drink over a glass of their favorite drink.

In fact, some studies suggest that up to 25% of those who drink excessively avoid unpleasant consequences.

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Ava Caruso is one of those people. This 25-year-old Australian says she can go to a bar with her friends, have a drink with them and be completely healthy the next day (but not with her friends).

Ava wanted to know how this was possible, and for this she sent her request to the BBC radio program “Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry,” in which scientists Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry explore the secrets of everyday life sent out by the public. ,

“Why do some people suffer so much after one night of drinking, while others (like me) do not feel any effect at all?” Asked the young Australian.

Brain with a glass of alcohol in front.

Alcohol affects your brain connections.

To find out, Rutherford and Fry began by asking a specialist how alcohol affects our body.

“When you drink an alcoholic drink, it can take from 10 to 90 minutes to feel the effect, but in fact alcohol very quickly affects your bloodstream,” explained Sally Adams, a medical psychologist at the University of Bath in England.

“(Alcohol) penetrates the blood-brain barrier and basically interacts with all the neurotransmitters in your brain,” said the expert, one of the few scientists in the world who has devoted himself to the study of hangovers.

Neurotransmitters are molecules that connect our brain and nerve cells, and alcohol affects most of these transmissions.

“This explains why we experience such rare effects as an inability to speak or walk well,” said Adams. We also cannot think clearly and usually act impulsively.


But this effect of alcohol on our brain is more associated with alcoholism. To better understand the hangover, we need to focus on another organ: the liver, which processes alcohol.

“When you drink alcohol, your body seeks to eliminate it, for that, your liver has an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase,” said Andrea Sella from University College London.

The enzyme removes hydrogen from alcohol and turns it into what is called acetaldehyde.

“Acetaldehyde is very toxic,” said Sella. Many experts believe this is the main cause of a hangover.

An image of a man drinking alcohol that reaches his liver.

The liver is responsible for removing alcohol from your blood, but not everyone processes it at the same rate.

But if we all process alcohol in this way, why are only some who feel the effects of a hangover?

Sella explained that this is due to the amount of alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes that we have in our liver.

“The speed with which alcohol will be processed will depend on the amount of alcohol dehydrogenase that is in your system,” he explained.

Genetic differences

This factor (the number of enzymes that metabolize alcohol in your liver) is determined by your genetics.

“Different people have different amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase,” explains Sella.

“If you need to get rid of acetaldehyde, and the levels of this compound accumulate, you will feel very bad,” he said.

Most likely, this is the key to answering Ava's question.

Perhaps she is genetically better prepared to drink alcohol than her friends, and that explains her tolerance.

A man with a hangover or flu, looking at himself in the mirror.

The symptoms of a hangover are much like the flu.

But there are other possible explanations.

For example, it may be related to your immune system.

Inflammatory reaction

"It is still not known exactly why people feel so bad during a hangover, but the best theory is that it is an immune response," says Adam Rogers, author of the book Evidence: The Science of Alcohol,

Experts saw that an excess of alcohol causes an immune response, which causes the release of certain substances that cause inflammation, causing various symptoms.

“If you’ve ever suffered a hangover, you’ll know it’s like the flu,” said Rogers. "You just feel bad, as if you had an infection."

So you know. If you drink at Christmas and New Year, it is very likely that your liver and immune system will take over.

Except, of course, that you're like Ava.

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