Nutraceutical strategies for ameliorating the toxic effects of alcohol

Med Hypotheses. 2013 Apr;80(4):456-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.12.040. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Rodent studies reveal that oxidative stress, much of it generated via induction/activation of NADPH oxidase, is a key mediator of a number of the pathogenic effects of chronic ethanol overconsumption. The highly reactive ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde is a key driver of this oxidative stress, and doubtless works in other ways to promote alcohol-induced pathology. Effective antioxidant measure may therefore be useful for mitigating the adverse health consequences of alcohol consumption; spirulina may have particular utility in this regard, as its chief phycochemical phycocyanobilin has recently been shown to function as an inhibitor of certain NADPH oxidase complexes, mimicking the physiological role of its chemical relatives biliverdin/bilirubin in this respect. Moreover, certain nutraceuticals, including taurine, pantethine, and lipoic acid, may have the potential to boost the activity of the mitochondrial isoform of aldehyde dehydrogenase, ALDH-2, accelerating conversion of acetaldehyde to acetate (which arguably has protective health effects). Little noticed clinical studies conducted nearly three decades ago reported that pre-ingestion of either taurine or pantethine could blunt the rise in blood acetaldehyde following ethanol consumption. Other evidence suggests that lipoic acid may function within mitochondria to maintain aldehyde dehydrogenase in a reduced active conformation; the impact of this agent on ethanol metabolism has however received little or no study. Studies evaluating the impact of nutracetical strategies on prevention of hangovers - which likely are mediated by acetaldehyde - may represent a quick, low-cost way to identify nutraceutical regimens that merit further attention for their potential impact on alcohol-induced pathology. Measures which boost or preserve ALDH-2 activity may also have important antioxidant potential, as this enzyme functions physiologically to protect cells from toxic aldehydes generated by oxidant stress.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species