Hangovers are not just the scourge of Sunday mornings, but put an estimated $90 billion-a-year drain on the economy thanks to lost productivity from blurry-headed employees. Hangover cures of egg yolks, Tabasco sauce and other arbitrary ingredients have been the stuff of folk legend and sitcom jokes for decades. When testing popular remedies, the hosts of the science reality series Mythbusters, for instance, had some luck with dunking their heads in ice water and a quick slap to the face. But two Yale students say the product they're hawking is much more pleasant, and works better because it's a preventative measure.
Liam McClintock and Margaret Morse, both seniors, are raising funds for a clinical trial of their anti-hangover supplement mix, dubbed Mentis, Latin for having control of one's mind. (They dropped its original name, SunUp, after a complaint from Sunup Green Coffee, McClintock says.)
McClintock, a business major, says he isn't a big drinker but that he "had been wanting to balance a working life and a social life." He's also a supplement fiend, taking eight a day. He sought input from his friend Morse, a molecular and cellular development biology major, to create a remedy for those bleary mornings. The resulting product, McClintock says, "prepares the body for the damage you're about to do it."
There are not a lot of scientific papers on the subject of hangovers; "most research into alcohol is funded towards liver disease," McClintock says. From what little literature there is, the pair determined there are four supposed root causes of a hangover: 1. Alcohol consumption overtaxes the liver and disrupts its ability to disperse vitamins and electrolytes through the body. 2. The body overproduces glutamine to fight the depressive effects of booze, throwing off sleep patterns. 3. Alcohol overwhelms the immune system, delaying the body's ability to fight basic illnesses and causing inflammation, which causes malaise. 4. The body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance.
Frankly, these factors are not at all well established as the sure causes of a hangover. In fact, they've been questioned by other researchers, who think the mechanisms of a hangover might be more centered on the proliferation of inflammatory immune cells, among other things. Nonetheless, McClintock and Morse bought bulk orders of supplements addressing the root issues they studied and mixed them up in their New Haven apartments. "We don't claim to be the experts in physiology of the hangover," McClintock says when asked about the somewhat dubious basis of their ingredients, "but this formula is based on studies that we have read."
The mix is meant to be combined with water and consumed before drinking begins. In an "informal" trial of 20 friends, in which participants kept notebooks of their alcohol consumption and the after-effects the next morning, Mentis yielded positive feedback, McClintock says. But of course the two can't confidently claim it works until the formula is tested against a placebo in a larger controlled study. One that will no doubt attract plenty of volunteers.