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Sick of Hangovers? Consider Changing Your DNA

A new study revealed that the answer to why you're hungover might be in your genes.

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By Victoria Kim

08/28/14

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A new study suggests that part of the reason why people experience hangovers after a night of drinking may be genetic.

Using telephone survey data of self-reported experiences with hangovers and alcohol consumption of about 4,000 middle-aged individuals from the Australian Twin Registry, the researchers searched for links between the study participants’ genetic makeups and the number of hangovers they reported experiencing in the past year.

Participants recounted the number of times they had been intoxicated in the past year in addition to their “hangover frequency” which is the number of days in the previous year they felt sick the morning after a night of drinking.

The results indicated that genetic factors account for 45% of the difference in hangover frequency in women and 40% in men. This means the individuals’ genetic makeups account for almost half of the reason why one individual has a hangover while another person doesn’t after consuming the same amount of alcohol.

The other half of the reason is likely influenced by factors unrelated to DNA such as the pace at which a person drinks, whether they eat while drinking, and their general alcohol tolerance.

The study’s findings could contribute to future research on alcohol addiction. “We have demonstrated that susceptibility to hangovers has a genetic underpinning,” said study leader Wendy Slutske, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia told Live Science. “This may be another clue to the genetics of alcoholism.”

This research requires further and more in-depth examination, as it is limited by such shortcomings as its dependence on people’s memories of their drinking and hangovers that are more than likely unreliable, Slutske noted.

She explained that the next steps will be to identify the specific genes that contribute to hangover susceptibility. And if the genes associated with alcoholism also cause hangovers, identifying these genetic factors could help prevent alcohol addiction.

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