Hangover Prevention: Hype or Hope?

By Jim Mitroka — Mar 11, 2024
A company called ZBiotic wants you to believe that its product – a microorganism that makes the enzyme that metabolizes acetaldehyde – will help prevent a hangover. Should we believe this?
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Looking to tie one on without the hassle of the nasty morning after?  Well there’s a new product on the market that claims to let you do just that.  But does science hold up to the hope?

There’s a new product on the market for those of us who like a drink or two, or maybe three, called ZBiotics®. From the product website (ZBiotics.com):  “ZBiotics® is a patented, genetically engineered probiotic that helps you land on your feet the day after drinking alcohol. It’s engineered to break down an unwanted byproduct of alcohol called acetaldehyde – the main culprit in those rough mornings after drinking.”

The claim, in so many words, is that the product will do away, or at least reduce those awful “hangover” symptoms one gets the morning after a night of overindulging.  Sounds great, but does it work, can it work?   Hint: Don’t bet on it. Here’s a little background…

Some science

When you ingest alcohol, or ethanol as it’s known in biochemical circles, it is broken down (metabolized) to other compounds.  This is the body’s way of eliminating the substance.  It is a two-step process. First the ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde, by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), then the acetaldehyde is converted to acetate by an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).  Of course, the alcohol is first absorbed from your GI tract and travels throughout the body. The enzymatic breakdown occurs in your liver, and the good (and later bad) feelings occur in your brain. 

The process looks something like this…

The bad guy in this scenario is acetaldehyde. It’s what is believed to be responsible, at least in part, for the hangover feeling.  You know - or maybe you don’t - the headache, nausea, vertigo, light sensitivity, and that general yuck feeling.   The final product, acetate (acetic acid), is a common metabolic intermediate that has no discernible effect.  People who lack ALDH for genetic reasons are known to be very sensitive to alcohol in what’s known as the  “Asian Flush” (1). So, it seems plausible that having more ALDH would reduce the acetaldehyde levels in people with normal levels of the enzyme.

Now the ZBiotic product has an interesting twist; it contains a microorganism that makes lots of ALDH.  The idea being that the little buggers will help your body mop up the nasty acetaldehyde and convert it to the harmless acetate. But there’s a catch.  Microorganisms and enzymes are not absorbed in the GI tract. They are either broken down to their smaller molecular components or passed through to the toilet.  So, the ALDH in the ZBioptic product never gets into the blood where it could neutralize the acetaldehyde and boost it’s breakdown.   

What’s the evidence?

The ZBiotics website shows the results of an in-house study in which the product breaks down acetaldehyde in a test tube.  Well, that’s no surprise. But as far as it actually working in an animal or person, forget it.  There are no such studies.  It would be pretty simple to do a study where a group of people take the product or a placebo before drinking and looking to see then determining how the subjects feel and what their acetaldehyde levels are the next day.  Instead, the manufacturer’s rely mainly on testimonials to market the product. And since it’s a supplement, which is considered to be a food not a drug, the company only had to show to be safe in animals (2), but there are no regulatory requirements for effectiveness.  It’s true that many users post glowing reviews on Amazon. But the same could be said for magnetic insoles and copper bracelets.   

Does ZBiotics work?  Well, anything is possible, but it seems unlikely, probably impossible.  Sorry, but perhaps a hangover is nature’s way of telling us not to drink too much and we just have to learn to live with it. 


  1.  Lee H, Kim SS, You KS, Park W, Yang JH, Kim M, Hayman LL (2014). "Asian flushing: genetic and sociocultural factors of alcoholism among East Asians". Gastroenterology Nursing. 37 (5): 327–36. doi:10.1097/SGA.0000000000000062. PMID 25271825. S2CID 206059192


  1. B. Appala Naidu, Kamala Kannan, D. P. Santhosh Kumar, John W. K. Oliver, Zachary D. Abbott, "Lyophilized B. subtilis ZB183 Spores: 90-Day Repeat Dose Oral (Gavage) Toxicity Study in Wistar Rats", Journal of Toxicology, vol. 2019, Article ID 3042108, 9 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/3042108