From Stuff: “Korean pears are the best way to prevent hangovers, say scientists.”
This is precisely not what scientists say; in fact, the scientist in question is even quoted (in the last line of the story) as not saying that.
Meanwhile, as a responsible scientist, she reminded that abstaining from excess alcohol consumption is the only certain way to avoid a hangover.
At least Stuff got ‘prevention’ in the headline. Many other sources, such as the Daily Mail, led with claims of a “hangover cure.” The Mail also illustrated the story with a photo of the wrong species: the research was on the Asian species Pyrus pyrifolia, rather than the European pear Pyrus communis. CSIRO hopes that European pears are effective, since that’s what Australia has vast quantities of, but they weren’t tested.
What Stuff doesn’t seem to have noticed is that this isn’t a new CSIRO discovery. The blog post certainly doesn’t go out of its way to make that obvious, but right at the bottom, after the cat picture, the puns, and the Q&A with the researcher, you can read
Manny also warns this is only a preliminary scoping study, with the results yet to be finalised. Ultimately, her team hope to deliver a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on pears, pear components and relevant health measures.
That is, the experimental study on Korean pears isn’t new research done at CSIRO. It’s research done in Korea, and published a couple of years ago. There’s nothing wrong with this, though it would have been nice to give credit, and it would have made the choice of Korean pears less mysterious.
The Korean researchers recruited a group of young Korean men, and gave alcohol (in the form of shoju), preceded by either Korean pear juice or placebo pear juice (pear-flavoured sweetened water). Blood chemistry studies, as well as research in mice by the same group, suggest that the pear juice speeds up the metabolism of alcohol and acetaldehyde. This didn’t prevent hangovers, but it did seem to lead to a small reduction in hangover severity.
The study was really too small to be very convincing. Perhaps more importantly, the alcohol dose was nearly eleven standard drinks (540ml of 20% alcohol) over a short period of time, so you’d hope it was relevant to a fairly small group of people. Even in Australia.