Not Just You: Why Hangovers Get Worse With Age - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Not Just You: Why Hangovers Get Worse With Age

KHQ.COM - As the years go by, it gets harder to shake off the head-and-stomach-achey aftereffects of a night of drinking. Hangovers seem to get worse as we get older — and it's not your imagination. It is, unfortunately, science.

We all know what a hangover is: Headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, shakiness or fatigue after drinking too much. The word practically defines itself: The medical term for "hangover" is "veisalgia," which is from the Norwegian word "kveis" — which means "uneasiness following debauchery." 

The weird thing is, scientists and doctors don't totally understand what causes a hangover. But we do know it's a side effect of overwhelming the body with more alcohol than it can efficiently break down. 

Alcohol metabolism is a two-step process in the liver, where enzymes first break the alcohol down into acetaldehyde.

"This toxin is probably the reason for a lot of the gross feelings that come with a hangover," explains Dr. Rachel Vreeman, co-author of the book "Don't Swallow Your Gum!" and assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

That's because acetaldehyde is highly toxic – between 10 and 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. The enzymes in your liver are next tasked with breaking down the acetaldehyde further, into a non-toxic substance called acetate. But your liver can only metabolize about one drink per hour – so if you're drinking more quickly than that, not all of the acetaldehyde gets broken down. In that case, the acetaldehyde is released into the blood stream to wreak havoc around your body, resulting in the awful feelings associated with a hangover.

There aren't a lot of strong studies looking at how age affects the human body's efficiency at breaking down alcohol, but a toxicology researcher in South Korea named Young Chul Kim has led studies looking at this process in aging rats. He has a few theories on why hangovers are especially unbearable as we get older.

"Many factors appear to be involved in worsening of hangover in old age. One is that the liver capacity to cope with the toxicity of acetaldehyde decreases as we get old," Kim said in an email. Acetaldehyde is directly detoxified in the liver by an antioxidant called glutathione. "Our data indicated that, as age increases, glutathione generation capacity is decreased, so cells may not be recovered or repaired rapidly."

It's just like everything else about us as we get older, points out Madelyn Fernstrom, diet and health editor for NBC News. "You can still do it, but you do it a little slower," she says.

Another possible link between age and killer hangovers: We've gotten fatter. Or, thinner! Change in body size, in either direction, can potentially worsen a hangover. "When one's body weight has increased, blood alcohol level decreases because of its wide distribution into body mass and fat, which leads one to drink extra glasses without realizing it, subsequently resulting in generation of more acetaldehyde," Kim says. "Or when one's body weight decreases, greater intoxication results due to limited distribution to the body after consumption of an equal amount of alcohol."

Older people also might be more likely to be on medications, or taking supplements, which may interfere with the metabolism of alcohol, experts say. But experts agree that perhaps the most significant, if least scientific, explanation as to why hangovers feel so much worse when we get over is simply that we're less likely to want to warrior through the headache and nausea, and much more likely to want to retreat to the couch until we feel better. 

"Many people are less accustomed to having hangovers once they are older because they just do not drink as regularly anymore," Vreeman says. "The wisdom of age?"

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Police confront man armed with bat during interview about downtown 'problem spot'

    Police confront man armed with bat during interview about downtown 'problem spot'

    Thursday, May 24 2018 2:28 AM EDT2018-05-24 06:28:47 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Crime is becoming a growing concern in parts of downtown Spokane-- and police are getting all to familiar with it. The worse it gets, the fewer people want to spend time there-- which only creates a vicious cycle. Tonight while while we were in the downtown neighborhood, we saw firsthand what businesses and police are worried about and say they see every day. "I think most areas are overall safe," Officer John O'Brien 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Crime is becoming a growing concern in parts of downtown Spokane-- and police are getting all to familiar with it. The worse it gets, the fewer people want to spend time there-- which only creates a vicious cycle. Tonight while while we were in the downtown neighborhood, we saw firsthand what businesses and police are worried about and say they see every day. "I think most areas are overall safe," Officer John O'Brien 

    >>
  • Case of Legionnaires' disease suspected at UW Medical Center

    Case of Legionnaires' disease suspected at UW Medical Center

    Thursday, May 24 2018 2:25 AM EDT2018-05-24 06:25:20 GMT

    SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) - A case of Legionnaires' disease has been suspected at the University of Washington Medical Center. KOMO-TV reported Wednesday that this is the third time in as many years that the disease has been suspected at the facility. Officials said the patient "has been diagnosed with a highly probable health care associated Legionella pneumonia." Officials said the patient is in satisfactory condition and is responding well to treatment. ...

    >>

    SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) - A case of Legionnaires' disease has been suspected at the University of Washington Medical Center. KOMO-TV reported Wednesday that this is the third time in as many years that the disease has been suspected at the facility. Officials said the patient "has been diagnosed with a highly probable health care associated Legionella pneumonia." Officials said the patient is in satisfactory condition and is responding well to treatment. ...

    >>
  • Deadliest Catch' star pleads guilty to misdemeanor assault

    Deadliest Catch' star pleads guilty to misdemeanor assault

    Wednesday, May 23 2018 5:32 PM EDT2018-05-23 21:32:34 GMT
    Sig HansenSig Hansen
    Sig HansenSig Hansen

    SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) - Celebrity crab-boat captain Sig Hansen has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he spat on an Uber driver last year in Seattle. The Seattle Times reports the 52-year-old "Deadliest Catch" star pleaded guilty Wednesday. Under the plea deal, a property destruction charge was dismissed. Prosecutors also recommended the assault conviction be dropped and the case dismissed if Hansen complies with court conditions for a yea...

    >>

    SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) - Celebrity crab-boat captain Sig Hansen has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he spat on an Uber driver last year in Seattle. The Seattle Times reports the 52-year-old "Deadliest Catch" star pleaded guilty Wednesday. Under the plea deal, a property destruction charge was dismissed. Prosecutors also recommended the assault conviction be dropped and the case dismissed if Hansen complies with court conditions for a yea...

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • The newest royal dog isn't a corgi; he's a rescue beagle from the U.S.

    The newest royal dog isn't a corgi; he's a rescue beagle from the U.S.

    Wednesday, May 23 2018 9:03 PM EDT2018-05-24 01:03:44 GMT
    Courtesy A Dogs Dream Rescue Facebook pageCourtesy A Dogs Dream Rescue Facebook page
    Courtesy A Dogs Dream Rescue Facebook pageCourtesy A Dogs Dream Rescue Facebook page
    Beverly Hills Chihuahua? More like Buckingham Palace Beagle. Megan Markle's three year old beagle has made the move across the pond to her new digs in England.  The beagle, named “Guy,” was found wandering in the woods alone and was to taken to a shelter in Kentucky. “A Dogs Dream Rescue,” stepped in and saved the now royal pup and helped him find his forever home with Megan Markle. Markle brought Guy home in 2015. Guy has seemed to have formed a...>>
    Beverly Hills Chihuahua? More like Buckingham Palace Beagle. Megan Markle's three year old beagle has made the move across the pond to her new digs in England.  The beagle, named “Guy,” was found wandering in the woods alone and was to taken to a shelter in Kentucky. “A Dogs Dream Rescue,” stepped in and saved the now royal pup and helped him find his forever home with Megan Markle. Markle brought Guy home in 2015. Guy has seemed to have formed a...>>
  • Woman smiles for DUI arrest mugshot following fatal crash

    Woman smiles for DUI arrest mugshot following fatal crash

    Wednesday, May 23 2018 8:21 PM EDT2018-05-24 00:21:20 GMT
    Marion County JailMarion County Jail
    Marion County JailMarion County Jail

    OCALA, Fla. - A Florida woman arrested on DUI charges after a crash that killed a 60-year-old woman was pictured smiling in her mugshot. According to the Ocala Star-Banner, 44-year-old Angenette Marie Welk was driving on U.S. 27 when she struck Sandra Clarkston’s car from behind on May 10. The impact of the crash caused Clarkston’s car to slam into the back of a tractor-trailer. Clarkston’s 18-year-old daughter, Shiyanne Kroll, was also in

    >>

    OCALA, Fla. - A Florida woman arrested on DUI charges after a crash that killed a 60-year-old woman was pictured smiling in her mugshot. According to the Ocala Star-Banner, 44-year-old Angenette Marie Welk was driving on U.S. 27 when she struck Sandra Clarkston’s car from behind on May 10. The impact of the crash caused Clarkston’s car to slam into the back of a tractor-trailer. Clarkston’s 18-year-old daughter, Shiyanne Kroll, was also in

    >>
  • The Latest: Officials say lava wall protecting geothermal plant

    The Latest: Officials say lava wall protecting geothermal plant

    Wednesday, May 23 2018 7:44 PM EDT2018-05-23 23:44:59 GMT

    PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) - The Latest on the eruption of a volcano in Hawaii (all times local): 1:15 p.m. Officials say lava spatter from Hawaii's erupting volcano is creating a wall that's helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.    U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said Wednesday that lava erupting from a vent closest to Puna Geothermal Venture is shooting higher than lava coming out of other vents. She says it's also producing the highest...

    >>

    PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) - The Latest on the eruption of a volcano in Hawaii (all times local): 1:15 p.m. Officials say lava spatter from Hawaii's erupting volcano is creating a wall that's helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.    U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said Wednesday that lava erupting from a vent closest to Puna Geothermal Venture is shooting higher than lava coming out of other vents. She says it's also producing the highest...

    >>