Contrary to popular belief, the best hangover remedy is not Mickey D's. According to Chinese researchers, it is ... Sprite. Yes, that soda no one ever drinks.
The scientists studied 57 beverages, ranging from herbal teas to soda, before concluding that the lemon-lime concoction performed the best at helping the body break down alcohol.
"The aim of this study was to supply new information on effects of these beverages on alcohol metabolism for nutritionists and the general public to reduce harm of excessive alcohol consumption," the scientists wrote in the journal Food & Function.
But first, the researchers looked into what causes hangover symptoms. It's not the alcohol itself, but the process of the body breaking down the alcohol that causes symptoms such as nausea and headache, they said.
When we drink, our livers release an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which breaks down the ethanol in alcohol into a chemical called acetaldehyde so that less alcohol enters the bloodstream, according to Chemistry World.
This is then broken down into another chemical called acetate by an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
Acetate is usually considered harmless -- in fact, it has been linked to some of the health benefits of alcohol. But being exposed to the more potent acetaldehyde is what causes hangover symptoms, the scientists found.
With those findings in mind, the researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou tested a range of drinks, from teas, hot herbal drinks popular in China and various sodas to see how they affected levels of ADH and ALDH.
Bursting an urban myth, they discovered that a herbal drink made with hemp seeds actually increased the length of the ADH process and inhibited the ALDH process, making hangovers last longer.
Sprite was found to be one of the most effect beverages in speeding up the ALDH process, causing the alcohol to be broken down more quickly and shortening hangover symptoms. Soda water worked well, too. (No word on whether they tested coffee or Bloody Marys.) The scientists did not explain what might give Sprite (owned by Coca-Cola) its magical qualities, but its ingredients are carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium citrate and sodium benzoate.
"The results suggested that some beverages should not be drunk after excessive alcohol consumption, and several beverages may be potential dietary supplement for the prevention and treatment of harm from excessive alcohol consumption," the researchers wrote.
But that's no reason you can't get a Big Mac, too.