The product, called 1B4, was developed by friends Damien Loh and Joe Lin, and launched last November.
Its key ingredient is curcumin, an active compound derived from turmeric that is said to possess anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.
Each serving of 1B4, which comes in an 80ml bottle, contains 25mg to 30mg of curcumin, as well as major B vitamins (B2, B6, B9, B12) and vitamin C. The drink is also caffeine-free and has a prickly pear flavour.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Damien Loh said, "Curcumin helps with the metabolism of alcohol, which is broken down into water and (the chemical compound) acetaldehyde; this compound is what causes hangovers.
"The body does eventually break it down, but it takes a long time. Curcumin helps to break it down much more quickly.”
Indeed, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) metabolises alcohol into toxic acetaldehyde, after which the liver enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) metabolises acetaldehyde into acetate, a less toxic compound that breaks down into water and carbon dioxide.
Previous studies have labelled acetaldehyde carcinogenic to humans and up to 30 times more toxic than ethanol, damaging DNA and affecting muscle development.
At the same time, clinical trials using both murine and human models have found curcumin useful in alleviating chronic alcohol-induced cognitive deficits and neuroinflammation.
A Taipei medical university study showed the compound's protective effects on the liver, as well as its ability to increase the liver's antioxidant capacity.
Vote of confidence
Loh and Lin — who both have day jobs in finance — noticed while working in Japan that a curcumin-based anti-hangover beverage was commonly consumed by drinkers in the country. They tried it, found it effective and took steps to have it distributed in Singapore.
They then decided to develop their own anti-hangover beverage. They collaborated with a US FDA-approved laboratory and, over the course of two years, worked on developing, testing, and seeking approval for 1B4 from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
After they'd invested around $80,000 in the project, Spring Singapore awarded them a Capability Development Grant at the end of 2016.
The product, whose ingredients are sourced from the US, is currently manufactured in Malaysia and sold online in packs of 12, 24, and 60 bottles.
The curcumin in 1B4 is present in nanoparticle form, making it easier for the body to process.
Loh said, "We wanted to provide a form of curcumin that was easy to consume and was easily absorbed.
"Also, the drink does have a slight medicinal taste, but people can actually use it as a mixer if they don't want to drink it on its own. It still works even if you take it after you've started drinking."
Loh added that he and Lin were able to justify the claim that it prevents or at least helps lessen the effects of a hangover, and thus have it approved by the HSA.
In terms of exporting the product, Loh said, "Our plan is to make it more well-known in Singapore before selling it in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, especially considering Singapore's health standards.
"When people overseas see it's popular in Singapore (where health regulations are strict), they'll know it's safe to drink and will be more likely to buy it."