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Meet Myrkl, a new anti-hangover pill

A new anti-hangover supplement – using probiotics – has just gone on sale in various parts of the world. It is marketed by its Swedish maker as Myrkl – pronounced Miracle – as “the pre-drinking pill that works”. But does it?

The pill is said to break down up to 70% of alcohol after 60 minutes. This means that if someone drinks 50ml of 40% spirits, which contains 20ml of pure alcohol, as little as 6ml of the alcohol will enter the bloodstream. This is the same as the person only drinking 15ml of spirits.

This reduction in the amount of alcohol absorbed by the body is mirrored by a reduction in the short-term effects of alcohol, such as euphoria and reduced anxiety.

The company that makes this probiotic supplement recommends that two pills are taken one to 12 hours before drinking alcohol.

Usually, ethanol is broken down by the liver into acetaldehyde, which then produces the compound acetic acid in the body. This is thought to be behind the tell-tale hangover symptoms.

However, Myrkl contains bacteria Bacillus Coagulans and Bacillus Subtilis and amino acid L-Cysteine which break alcohol down before it reaches the liver — converting it into water and carbon dioxide.

This means barely any acetaldehyde and acetic acid are made by the liver. The pills also contain vitamin B12, which the company claims will leave users ‘feeling refreshed’.

An acid-resistant capsule protects the bacteria from the stomach’s natural acids so they can reach the intestine where most alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.

What the science says

The pill is aimed at those who do not want a hangover after drinking the day before. But can these pills really prevent a hangover?

A hangover is mainly due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol, which can give a headache. The direct effect of alcohol on the stomach can also cause a sore stomach and nausea. If less alcohol is taken into the body, the risks of being dehydrated are less. But since the pills only work after alcohol has passed through the stomach to the intestine, they will not stop alcohol’s effect on the stomach.

The evidence for Myrkl is based on a single published research study. Twenty-four healthy young white adults were asked to take either two Myrkl pills or dummy pills (placebo) each day for seven days. They were then given a small amount of alcohol (between 50 and 90ml of spirits) based on their weight. Their blood alcohol level was tested for the next two hours.

The researchers found that within the first 60 minutes, the amount of alcohol in the blood was 70% lower in those who received Myrkl compared with the dummy pill.

Although this study was well designed, including randomly allocating people to the Myrkl or dummy pill groups, several problems make the results weaker. First, the researchers only reported results from 14 of the 24 people because ten had lower blood alcohol levels at the start.

Second, results varied between different people, which reduces the accuracy of the study. And third, the researchers tested seven days of treatment before a single drink of alcohol, but the company recommend only two pills one to 12 hours before drinking any amount.

Lots of unanswered questions

It is already known that friendly gut bacteria are changed by long-term illnesses and lifestyle (smoking, regular alcohol consumption and diet). It is also known that alcohol is absorbed differently according to weight, sex, physical activity and food consumption. These factors may reduce or increase the effect of the friendly bacteria in the Myrkl pills.

The study also leaves many unanswered questions. Does the pill work in people who are not young, healthy and white? Does it work in people with gut or liver disease? Are there differences in the effect of the pill between men and women? What happens when food and alcohol are taken together? Do medications change the action of the pills?

Probiotics are safe and widely available. They can be bought as yoghurts, drinks or pills from many supermarkets and health food shops. The two bacteria in the Myrkl pills are also likely to be safe for most people. Yet probiotics given to people with illnesses can upset the natural balance of healthy gut bacteria causing infection or gut symptoms.

A pre-drinking pill to prevent the hangover the next day would be of benefit to some people. However, with all the unanswered questions around Myrkl, the best cure for a hangover remains drinking less alcohol the day before.

The Conversation, authored by Ashwin Dhanda, Honorary Associate Professor, Hepatology, University of Plymouth.

Additional reading:

I tried the ‘miracle’ hangover pill before a night out – this is what happened

A new drug claims to help us deal with the effects of being drunk, so obviously this had to be put to the test in the name of science

A fancy midweek event comes with an obligation to glug delicious wine, eat gourmet food and talk to interesting people. A real chore. The only downside, of course, is going into work the next morning with a stonking hangover and muddling through the daze without your boss finding out. 

Everyone has their own solution: paracetamol, Berocca, coffee, a greasy bacon butty. The hangover battle is one part art, one part science, one part experience. But now, the science tranche has received a boost. The Swedish pharmaceutical firm De Faire Medical has launched the world’s first commercially available hangover tablet

It’s called Myrkl (pronounced miracle, not Merkel, like the long-serving German chancellor) and a pack of 30 tablets can be bought online for £30.

It works, the company claims, by speeding up the rate at which the body breaks down alcohol over a period of 12 hours. So, in theory, if you take the tablets before an evening’s entertainment (De Faire says consumers should take two at least one hour before consuming alcohol to receive the maximum benefit), then you should wake up the next morning with a clear head…..

The Telegraph: Read the full article