This amino acid is found in Japanese shijimi clams, and is alleged to be effective against hangovers and aid in recovery from fatigue. (And now that I think back to my BSc and how to present evidence – or avoid doing so – the ability of the Japanese language to avoid a subject comes in pretty handy.)
Sake is not eligible for the Japanese functional food labelling system, so it cannot make claims such as “good for the liver”, but the high-ornithine sake lacks the characteristic bitterness of the amino acid and is said to be easy to drink. Ōhashi cautions that drinking too much of it will indeed result in a hangover. A 720 ml bottle costs JPY 1,188 (including tax) and the sake is 15% abv.
I’m sure you can all hear me shouting at my screen from wherever you are. This is a triumph of biotechnology and screening and brewing, sure, but even joking about a 15% abv product being “good for your liver” is enough to make me want to ask people to hand in their scientist cards.
I had a quick look online to try to figure out how much ornithine is in a clam, and how much ornithine is supposed to be enough to cause an effect, so I can figure out if “50x the ornithine of a clam” is meaningful, but if the information is out there it’s hard to find among the claims of shijimi curing your hangover, and your liver while they’re at it.
Anyway. I love sake, but alcohol is not and never will be a health product. If that’s what you’re worried about, go eat some clams. Bon appetit.
- Original article (Japanese, Yomiuri Online, 6 March 2018)
- Yagi brewery (Japanese)
- United States Department of Agriculture report on the 2015 changes to Japanese functional food labelling (English, PDF) Contains links to regulatory information in Japanese.
- Sake Experience Japan story about Nara sake made with yeast from double cherry blossoms and taken from shrine grounds (English, Sake Experience Japan, 4 January 2017)