You may have heard all kinds of suggestions to help stave off hangovers, including taking vitamin B12. And if you’re thinking, is vitamin B12 actually good for a hangover, you’re not alone.
Hangover myths are passed down from generation to generation. And it’s hard to separate the health fads from the facts.
In this article, we’re going to take a close look as whether vitamin B12 has any benefit for a hangover. We’ll use the data from published research papers to give you a scientifically accurate answer.
So, with the introductions out of the way, it’s time to start looking at B12 for hangovers.
What does Vitamin B12 do?
There are eight different B vitamins, and B12 is found in high concentrations in a variety of animal products. You get B12 naturally from your diet by eating food like red meat, fish, milk, or eggs. It’s quite difficult to get B12 from plant sources, however, there are many fortified vegan products on the market nowadays.
This essential vitamin is stored in the cells of your liver. A healthy person with normal levels of vitamin B12 should have approximately three to five years’ worth of stores. It can take quite a long time for most people to become deficient in B12.(1)
You need vitamin B12 in order for certain enzymes within your body to work. Vitamin B12 is absolutely crucial to the synthesis of DNA as well as the healthy functioning of your nervous system and red blood cells.
If you’re vitamin B12 deficient, you develop a specific type of anemia known as “megaloblastic” anemia. In cases of severe deficiency, people can develop problems with their nervous system.
In summary, vitamin B12’s main functions include DNA synthesis, maintaining the normal function of your nervous system and some aspects of metabolism.
So, does this mean that B12 will be good for hangovers? That’s what we’ll dive into next.
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Is Vitamin B12 good for Hangovers?
Before we get into whether B12 is good for hangovers, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body in the first place.
One of the main causes of a hangover is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys flush out excess water. As a result, while alcohol is in your system, you lose excess water that you wouldn’t have otherwise. In fact, every glass of wine will make you lose approximately 120mls of excess water.(2)
Another major cause of hangovers is inflammation. When your liver metabolizes alcohol, toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde are produced. During periods of over-indulgence, these toxic by-products accumulate which wreaks havoc on your insides. They react with the cells they come into contact with causing “oxidative damage”. Antioxidants neutralize toxic by-products to prevent oxidative damage, but this system can become saturated (more on this later).
An overlooked cause of a hangover is sleep deprivation. Alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage. This is the deepest stage of sleep where supposedly dreams occur. Without REM sleep, you won’t be fully rested. Ever find that you wake up several times during the night after having a few drinks? this is the explanation for it.
So for vitamin B12 to be beneficial for a hangover, it’ll need to counteract, or at least support some of the damaging effects of alcohol.
Firstly, vitamin B12 is not directly involved in alcohol metabolism and therefore does not have a role in the breakdown of alcohol.
Secondly, it’s unproven whether vitamin B12 has any antioxidant properties which may protect your cells from oxidative stress.(3)
Furthermore, at the time of writing, there are no published studies that have looked at whether B12 is good for hangovers.(4)
If you eat a balanced diet, you should have many years’ worth of vitamin B12 stores in your liver. Replacing this vitamin after a night of drinking isn’t likely to do much for your hangover.
In summary, there is no evidence to show that vitamin B12 will have any benefit for hangover.
Does drinking alcohol affect vitamin B12 levels?
In order to determine if drinking alcohol can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s important to distinguish between acute and chronic alcohol consumption.
When referring to acute alcohol consumption, it generally means “binge drinking” which means drinking a lot of alcohol within a single sitting. In the UK, this is defined as 8 units (standard drins) for men and 6 for women. This is equivalent to around 3 to 4 glasses of wine.(1)
The term chronic alcohol consumption refers to those who drink alcohol on a regular basis. This can apply to people with alcohol dependence issues. Chronic alcohol consumption can have a ripple effect on the body over time.
Binge drinking and B12 Deficiency
A study of 77 patients who came to the emergency room with alcohol intoxication had blood tests to check their vitamin levels. They found no decrease in B12 levels.(2)
However, interestingly enough, 15% of those same patients indicated a thiamine deficiency, also known as vitamin B1.
Chronic alcohol use and B12 Deficiency
Measuring the body’s B12 levels can be more complicated for those who are chronic alcohol drinkers. That’s because, over a long period of time, the vitamin B12 levels in your body can be affected by several factors including your diet.
A different study looked closely at the effects of chronic alcohol consumption in humans and found no change.(3)
That said, there are certain B vitamins such as Thiamine (B1) and Pyridoxine (B6) which are well known to be affected by chronic alcohol consumption.(4)
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve been drinking too much for your body to handle. Trying to “cure” a hangover by taking supplements like B12 is the wrong approach.
The best way to prevent a hangover is to drink less, keep well hydrated and eat before going out.
Vitamin B12 for Hangovers – Final Verdict?
B12 is important for the normal functioning of your red blood cell, nervous system, and DNA synthesis. Your liver stores several years worth of B12 and it takes a long time to become deficient in it if you’ve got a balanced diet.
When it comes to B12 for hangovers, there arent any studies which have shown that it’s beneficial. In addition, B12 isn’t involved in alcohol metabolism, nor does it have antioxidant properties which could be beneficial.
Unfortunately, if you’re expecting to wake up from a night out with no hangover after taking B12, you’ll probably be disappointed.
If you’re interested in vitamins that could be good for hangovers, check out our article on B vitamins for hangovers.