The inflammatory response to alcohol consumption and its role in the pathology of alcohol hangover

Aurora J.A.E. van de Loo, Marlou Mackus, Oran Kwon, Illathu Madhavamenon Krishnakumar, Johan Garssen, Aletta D. Kraneveld, Andrew Scholey, Joris C. Verster

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26 Scopus citations


An increasing number of studies are focusing on the inflammatory response to alcohol as a potentially important determinant of hangover severity. In this article, data from two studies were re-evaluated to investigate the relationship between hangover severity and relevant biomarkers of alcohol metabolism, oxidative stress and the inflammatory response to alcohol. Hangover severity was significantly and positively correlated with blood concentrations of biomarkers of the inflammatory response to alcohol, in particular, Interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and C-reactive protein (CRP). At 4 h after alcohol consumption, blood ethanol concentration (but not acetaldehyde) was significantly and positively associated with elevated levels of IL-6, suggesting a direct inflammatory effect of ethanol. In addition, biomarkers of oxidative stress, i.e., malondialdehyde and 8-isoprostrane, were significantly correlated with hangover severity, suggesting that oxidative stress also contributes to the inflammatory response. The timing of the assessments suggests initial slow elimination of ethanol in the first hours after alcohol consumption. As a consequence, more ethanol is present in the second half of the night and the next morning, which will elicit more oxidative stress and a more profound inflammatory response. Together, these processes result in more severe hangovers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2081
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • 8-isoprostane
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Acetate
  • Alcohol
  • C-reactive protein
  • Cytokines
  • Ethanol
  • Hangover
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Oxidative stress


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