Have you ever had more than a glass of wine during a lively dinner and felt quite dizzy and tired the day after? I believe that everyone is quite familiar with the unpleasant effects of alcohol, especially the young ones with the so-called hangover.
When I was a young Erasmus student in Spain I didn’t properly know that determined foods (other than kebab and french fries) could actually help – in particular our liver – against the toxic effects of alcohol.
I came into contact with this interesting article from the Journal of Food Science from Kim and co-workers (2009) a couple of days ago by chance. I was looking for some food science curiosities related to alcohol and I have realised that this study shows the positive effects of Asparagus extract on the metabolism of alcohol and its toxic compounds.
The Asparagus, namely Asparagus officinalis, is a widely consumed vegetable and has been already used as a herbal medicine thanks to its antifungal, anti-inflammatory effects among the many others (Tang and Gao, 2011; Huang and Rau, 1988).
We know that the negative effects of alcohol are mostly taken over by the liver which has powerful enzymes such as Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) and Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) that act as powerful tools that are able to detoxify our body from ethanol and metabolises it first to acetaldehyde and then to acetate.
Acetaldehyde is the compound that, if present at higher concentrations, will cause toxic effects such as rapid pulse, nausea, sweating and vomiting (Eriksson, 2001). This is the reason why, rapid metabolisation and removal of the excess of ethanol might be beneficial in order to avoid unpleasant side effects. However, it can be said that the unpleasant negative effects of alcohol are the right punishment to an excessive alcohol consumption!
In the in vitro study from Kim et al, 2009, amino acids, minerals and nutrients from asparagus were analysed and they have discovered that the extract of the leaves of Asparagus officinalis have more minerals and aminoacids than the young shoots and they exert higher protective effects towards liver cells including antioxidant properties. The extract from the asparagus had beneficial effects in promoting enzymatic activities for ADH and ALDH which are the enzymes that are entitled to the metabolisation and removal of ethanol.
Eriksson CJ. 2001. The role of acetaldehyde in the actions of alcohol. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 25:15S – 32S.
Huang X., Kong L. 2006. Stereoidal saponins from roots of Asparagus officinalis. Steroids 71:171-6.
Kim B.Y., Cui Z.G., Lee S.R., Kim S.J., Kang H.K., Lee Y.K., Park D.B. 2009. Effects of Asparagus officinalis Extracts on Liver Cell Toxicity and Ethanol Metabolism. Journal of Food Science vol 74, 7, 204 – 208.
Tang X.H., Gao J. 2001. Inhibition effects of juice from Asparagus officinalis L. in cyclophosphamide (CTX)-induced mutagenic activities in mice. J Nanjing Univ (Nat Sci) 37:59 – 65.