Scientists have confirmed that one of New Orleans’ time-honored hangover remedies — a traditional soup known as “Old Sober” — can actually ease the symptoms of a night of over-indulgence.
The findings, presented at a scientific meeting of the American Chemical Society in the Big Easy this week, found that a steaming bowl of “Yak-a-mein” soup contains beneficial compounds that can help people recover from the effects of drinking and partying too much.
Although recipes vary, Yak-a-mein — also spelled Yakmein, Yaka-mein and Yak-a-Men — typically is a salty beef-and-soy-sauce-based soup that contains heavy carbohydrate sources like noodles; protein from beef, chicken or shrimp; onions or chopped scallions; and sliced hard-boiled egg.
Alyson E. Mitchell, with the University of California at Davis, said the soup’s signature blend of salts, protein, and other ingredients is the likely culprit in treating a hangover.
"Folklore has it that American soldiers from New Orleans stationed in Korea in the 1950s learned to appreciate Yak-a-mein on the morning after, and brought a taste for it back home," said Mitchell, whose presented her findings on the chemistry and physiology of the hangover at a conference symposium, "Chemistry of the Bar."
She added: "It may be a good example of intuitive science — an effective remedy, and with the scientific basis revealed only years later."
Mitchell noted a hangover is a “metabolic storm” that results from high blood levels of ethanol, dehydration, and toxic effects of the body's breakdown of alcohol. She said scientific evidence suggests drinkers can try to avoid a hangover by doing the following:
- Eat eggs, which contain cysteine, which helps to remove a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism — known as acetyldehyde — from the body.
- Drink broth because it contains salts that can help replace sodium, potassium, and other salts lost due to the diuretic effect of alcohol. Sports drinks also may help.
- Take vitamin B1, which may help prevent the buildup of glutarate, a substance linked to the headache caused by a hangover.
- Consume no more than one 12-ounce beer, five ounces of wine, or one ounce of distilled spirits each hour because the body can process about one-half ounce of pure alcohol in 60 minutes.
- Don't drink coffee, which is a diuretic and can worsen dehydration caused by alcohol itself.
- Eat fatty foods prior to drinking to help slow down absorption of alcohol.
- Avoid dark liquors such as brandy, tequila, whiskey and red wine, which have the highest concentrations of hangover-causing compounds known as congeners. By contrast, clear liquors, such as vodka and gin, have fewer congeners.
Mitchell emphasized, however, that the only sure way to prevent a hangover is to abstain from alcohol, or drink responsibly, in moderation.
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