I was reading Palmer’s “How To Brew” and recall reading something about a mistake or imperfection that leads to the formation of something that is believed to be the cause of hang overs. I think it was some kind of alcohol created during fermentation.
Anyway, I’ve looked through the book and cannot find that again… does anybody know what I’m referring to, or am I crazy?
It all depends on which symptoms of a hangover someone is referring to. Acetaldehyde is thought to be a cause of many of the symptoms, but it is not because acetaldehyde is in the beer, acetaldehyde is made when the body breaks down the alcohol in the beer. The more pure the alcohol, the less acetaldehyde is built up as a byproduct. With beer you will always have acetaldehyde formation in the body.
As far as headaches, those are caused by caused by your body trying to rehydrate yourself, which can cause blood vessels to dilate, which can cause swelling in the brain and in return headaches and dizziness. This can also cause the stomach to get upset due to swelling of the capillary beds in the stomach and intestines.
Another cause of hang overs is the body trying to get your body’s chemicals back to center. One theory is that for your body to process alcohol it must convert the enzyme NAD+ into NADH. When NADH builds up in cells it causes the cells not to work right so it can’t regulate things like blood sugar, ATP production for energy, and a lot of other chemical reactions in the body.
Long short- if you are indulging in more beer than your body can clear out of your system effectively you will always have a hangover. This goes for almost all alcohols except very very clean vodkas and gins. They are broken down by the body more effectively so you don’t usually get hangovers from these two. Beer isn’t a very clean alcohol because of all the other ingredients that go into making it so no matter what you will always have the risk of a hangover from beer.
I think the only that JP suggests that acetaldehyde, which is a brewing flaw, can possibly lead to a worse hangover is because it increases the total amount of acetaldehyde in the body versus what is broken down from ethanol. That being said, it is metabolized so quickly that it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference when it comes to overindulgence.
So not to quibble further, but if acetaldehyde is present in higher levels in the beer (as opposed to formed by liver enzymes), does that not lead to more pronounced effects from the body’s metabolization of it (because it has more of it to break down), or no? (honest question, not rhetorical or snarky)
It’s absolutely possible. My understanding is that acetaldehyde is broken down fairly quickly, so there’s a good chance that the acetaldehyde present in the beer will be metabolized before the alcohol itself is broken down into acetaldehyde (hence my above statement).
The issue is that there’s only a limited amount of the enzymes and other goodies necessary to break down acetaldehyde present in the liver, and if the liver’s reserves of glutathione are used up from breaking down the acetaldehyde in the beer, the acetaldehyde converted from alcohol will stick around much longer to cause damage, some of which are symptoms of hangover.
Porkchop is correct. Acetaldehyde is broken down very quickly IF the body has enough of the antioxidant glutathione to do it since it can skip the first step in breaking down ethanol. After it runs out of glutathione the liver has to wait for more to be produced so toxic acetaldehyde sits in the liver doing damage.
Normally, it takes about three to four beers worth of alcohol to go through a males glutathione stores and roughly two beers for women, or at least those are the numbers I remember. I could be wrong on the exact numbers and it does vary by ethnicity. So if there are more acetaldehyde in the beer, then you can expect to be able to drink less beer before you start building up toxins in the liver, causing a person to get sick.
For anyone interested in the whole process for the liver to break down ethanol (the alcohol) into something it can get rid of is the liver uses an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase to turn ethanol into acetaldehyde, which allows the enzymes acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and the antioxidant glutathione to bind to the acetaldehyde. This takes the toxic acetaldehyde and turns it into the non-toxic chemical acetate that leaves the body as CO2 and water.
All that being said the first response was likely what the OP was referring to. A hot, fast fermentation can lead to the production of fusel alcohols which can give you a wicked headache and hangover symptoms. The beer will taste hot and likely have other off flavors but you don’t have to consume much to get the effects.