Wondering whether Vitamin B is good for a hangover? It’s a common question and one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.
If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you’ve already tried many different supposed hangover cures in your time. Drinking water and taking painkillers help, but nothing quite does the trick.
Taking vitamin B supplements for hangovers is a popular method used by many to fight their symptoms. But does it actually work?
In this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at vitamin B and its relation to alcohol, to find out whether it has any benefits for a hangover.
What does vitamin B do?
Before we get into vitamin B and alcohol, we first need to go over what vitamin B actually does in your body.
There are a total of eight individual B vitamins. All of which are water-soluble vitamins which means they are dissolvable in water. The other types of vitamins you may be familiar with such as vitamins D and A, are fat-soluble.
As a result, most B vitamins aren’t stored in your body and, therefore, you need to get a certain amount from your diet to maintain healthy levels.
The exception to this rule is vitamin B12 and folate which your liver is able to store. B12 for up to 3 years and folate up to 4 months.
The B vitamins are essential for life and deficiency in any one causes significant disease. Thankfully, it’s not hard to get the right amount of each one if you have a healthy balanced diet.
Vitamins B1 to B6
These vitamins are the precursors and cofactors to many of the enzymes required for metabolism. This means the metabolism of all foods and drinks you consume, including alcohol.
What is a cofactor? well, it’s a substance whose presence is essential for the activity of an enzyme.
Vitamin B9 (folate) and B12
These two B vitamins are particularly important in DNA synthesis and regulation as well as the healthy functioning of your nervous system.
With the basics out the way, next up we’ll look into vitamin B and alcohol metabolism.
Vitamin B and alcohol
Chronic alcohol use is well-known to significantly affect the levels of vitamin B in your body. In chronic alcohol use, vitamin B deficiency is caused by several different factors.(1)
- Reduced intake due to a poor diet
- alcohol affects absorption of vitamins
- Drinking increases the use of B vitamins due to increased metabolic demand
- alcohol increases vitamin excretion
On the other hand, less is known about the effect of alcohol on vitamin levels during acute consumption. In other words, drinking too much at the weekend.
A research group from a US emergency department tested vitamin deficiency in patients coming in who’d had a few too many drinks at happy hour. They found that vitamin B1 levels were significantly lower, whereas B12 and folate levels were unaffected.(4)
The bottom line: Although it’s well-known that vitamin levels are significantly affected by chronic alcohol use. Not much research is available about vitamin B and alcohol use within recommended limits.
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Is vitamin B good for hangovers?
So, is vitamin B good for hangovers or not? There is some debate around this seemingly simple ‘yes or no’ question. Mainly because there are so many different vitamins that come under the B vitamin group. Also, the fact that B vitamins for hangovers haven’t been researched extensively.
One study reports a significant reduction in hangover severity in those who have high vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) and zinc intake.(5)
Another study found that vitamin B6 also reduced hangover severity.(6)
Other than this, there isn’t much else out there that’s actually tested vitamin B for hangovers.
That said, there are many hangover supplements on the market that include vitamin B in their formulation.
The bottom line: The evidence for vitamin B being good for hangovers is limited and any reported benefits are anectdotal.
When should you take vitamin B for hangovers?
All of the studies mentioned above (albeit limited in number) give their test subjects vitamin B before, during or straight after drinking alcohol.
It’s the same case with all the hangover supplements on the market. They will all recommend taking vitamin B either before or straight after your last drink.
If the nutrients are going to have any effect on your hangover, it’s going to be while alcohol and its by-products of metabolism are still in your system.
There’s no point trying to recover the morning after once your hangover has taken hold. By this stage, it’s already too late. The damage is done.
Do B vitamins cure hangovers?
There’s one thing that’s for sure, Vitamin B will not cure your hangover. In fact, nothing will truly “cure” a hangover.
Hangovers are caused by several different factors including dehydration, inflammation and poor sleep to mention a few.
No single or combination of ingredients is going to take your hangover away.
Are there any side-effects?
Generally speaking, vitamin B is safe to take as it’s an essential nutrient required for life. That said, there are some supplements that contain very high concentrations which can cause side effects.
For example, vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) can make your urine go a flourescent yellow colour.
High doses of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is well-known to cause abdominal pain and facial flushing.
Anything else to consider?
When it comes to hangovers, prevention is key. Drinking plenty of water, slowing down on your alcohol intake and having a meal before going out will go a long way in reducing hangover severity.
At the end of the day, hangovers are caused by drinking more alcohol than your body can handle.
In addition, darker colored drinks that are high in congeners can make hangovers worse.
Vitamin B for a hangover – Final verdict
So, that brings us to the end of our look at whether vitamin B is good for hangovers or not.
We’ve walked you through some of the differences between the different types of B vitamins and how they are important for normal metabolism.
Aside from chronic alcohol use, the research into vitamin B and hangovers is limited. There are only a handful of studies available at the time of writing.
In general, vitamin B1 to B6 could have a role in supporting your liver during periods of over-indulgence. On the other hand, folic acid and vitamin B12 are unlikely to be as useful.
The reason is, if you have a healthy balanced diet, you’re unlikely to be deficient in it and no studies have linked deficiencies in these two B vitamins with “regular” alcohol intake.
If you’re interested in the role of different vitamins and minerals in hangovers, check out our article on: the best vitamins for a hangover.