(ORDO NEWS) — A new hangover supplement has just gone on sale in the UK. It is advertised by the Swedish company Myrkl as “a pre-drink pill that works”.
The tablet is claimed to break down up to 70 percent of alcohol in 60 minutes. This means that if someone drinks 50 ml of a 40% liquor that contains 20 ml of pure alcohol, only 6 ml of alcohol will enter the bloodstream. This is the same as if a person drank only 15 ml of alcohol.
This reduction in the amount of alcohol absorbed by the body is reflected in a reduction in the short-term effects of alcohol, such as euphoria and reduced anxiety.
The company that makes this supplement recommends taking two tablets 1-12 hours before drinking alcohol.
The probiotic supplement contains two gut-friendly bacteria, Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans, derived from fermented rice bran. These bacteria naturally break down alcohol into water and carbon dioxide.
The acid-resistant capsule protects bacteria from natural stomach acids so they can reach the intestines, where most of the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.
What Science Says
Tablets are intended for those who do not want a hangover after drinking the day before. But can these pills really prevent hangovers?
Hangovers are mainly due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol, which can cause headaches. The direct effect of alcohol on the stomach can also cause stomach pain and nausea.
If less alcohol enters the body, then the risk of dehydration is less. But since the pills only work after the alcohol has passed through the stomach and into the intestines, they won’t stop the alcohol’s effect on the stomach.
The evidence for Myrkle is based on one published study. Twenty-four healthy young white adults were asked to take either two Myrkl tablets or a pacifier (placebo) every day for seven days.
They were then given small amounts of alcohol (between 50 and 90 ml of alcohol) depending on their weight. Blood alcohol levels were checked over the next two hours.
The researchers found that during the first 60 minutes, blood alcohol levels were 70 percent lower in those who took Myrkl compared to the pacifier.
Although this study was well designed, including random assignment of people to Myrkl or dummy pills, several problems make the results weaker.
First, the researchers only reported results from 14 of the 24 people because ten of them had lower blood alcohol levels at the start of the study.
Secondly, the results differed from person to person, which reduces the accuracy of the study. And third, the researchers tested seven days of treatment before drinking a single drink, but the company recommends taking only two tablets 1-12 hours before drinking any amount of alcohol.
The study also leaves many questions unanswered. Does the pill work on people who are not young, healthy and white?
Does it work for people with bowel or liver disease? Are there any differences in the effect of the pill in men and women? What happens when you eat and drink together? Do drugs change the way the pills work?
It is already known that friendly gut bacteria are altered by long-term illness and lifestyle (smoking, regular alcohol consumption and diet). It is also known that alcohol is absorbed differently depending on weight, gender, physical activity and food intake.
These factors may decrease or increase the activity of friendly bacteria in Miracle tablets.
Probiotics are safe and widely available. They can be bought in the form of yogurts, drinks or tablets in many supermarkets and health food stores. The two bacteria found in Myrkl tablets are also likely safe for most people.
However, probiotics taken by sick people can upset the natural balance of beneficial gut bacteria, causing infection or symptoms of intestinal disorders.
Taking a pill before drinking alcohol to prevent a hangover the next day may be helpful for some people. However, given all the murky questions surrounding Myrkle, drinking less alcohol the night before remains the best hangover cure.
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