Finnish Researchers Think They've Found a Real Hangover Cure

The results sound promising.

Last November, Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office, published the results of its most recent Life Satisfaction survey. Residents of each of the EU's member countries were asked to evaluate how satisfied they were with their lives as a whole, using a scale from 0 to 10. In the end, the Finns proved to be the most pleased with ...well, everything, with a final score of 8.1.

The results of a new research study from the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland will probably give Finns something else to be happy about: according to Yle, these scientists think they've finally found an effective cure for hangovers.

Nineteen men were recruited for the study, and they spent their Friday nights in a hotel conference room downing a potent 10% ABV combination of cranberry juice and Koskenkorva, a Finnish grain alcohol. The number of drinks each participant received was based on his body weight; a 165-pound-man would get nine servings. (Of course, with only men included in the study, there are serious limitations to its findings.)

A wine cork being removed from a bottle
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"There were clearly intoxicated people, but no-one was falling down drunk," University of Helsinki researcher Markus Metsälä said.

Each participant was given either a placebo, a pill containing 600 mg of the amino acid L-cysteine, or a 1,200 mg dose of L-cysteine. The next morning, they were asked to answer a number of questions about how they were feeling, and whether they felt headachy, nauseous, stressed, or just, you know, hungover. The researchers discovered that the men who received the 1,200 mg pill experienced less severe headaches and nausea, while those who had the smaller dose felt less anxious overall.

"L-cysteine would reduce the need of drinking the next day with no or less hangover symptoms: nausea, headache, stress and anxiety," the researchers wrote in their conclusions. "Altogether, these effects of L-cysteine are unique and seem to have a future in preventing or alleviating these harmful symptoms as well as reducing the risk of alcohol addiction."

Metsälä told Yle that some of the study's original participants became "so unwell" that they couldn't complete the sessions, while others were such serious drinkers that they never got hammered enough to get a hangover.

"Some subjects, on the other hand, did not have the patience to stop drinking when the study's official drink sessions came to an end, but instead continued to drink more at the hotel bar," he said. "They also had to be excluded from the study."

The study itself was funded by Catapult Cat, which is, um, a Finnish cat food company. It also sells L-cysteine supplements—for humans—so it's surely delighted by the final results. This research was published in the most recent issue of the Oxford Academic journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Being able to enjoy a couple of drinks (although maybe not nine drinks) on a Friday night without ruining your Saturday definitely ranks high on the Life Satisfaction scale. Thanks for sharing your good fortune, Finland.

Updated by
Jelisa Castrodale
Photo of Jelisa Castrodale

Jelisa Castrodale has been a staff writer with Food & Wine since 2019.

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