Why do Asians get red when they drink alcohol?
The reddening reaction in the majority of Asians after the consumption of alcohol is due to the Alcohol Flush Reaction. The website saberatualizado, explains from 8 scientific references, that this occurs from a genetic anomaly that affects approximately 36% of the population in East Asia.
How does this happen?
The alcohol when consumed goes directly to the intestine, going to the liver to be metabolized. Part of the ethanol is oxidized to acetaldehyde by the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, while another part goes into the blood. Being present in the blood, more and more the liver transforms it into acetaldeído, being extremely toxic for the body. Another enzyme then, called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, comes into action quickly to convert the harmful acetaldehyde into harmless acetic acid.
However, because of a genetic anomaly, there is a deregulation in the production of these two enzymes. Approximately 80% of Asians have an ADH1B gene variant and most of the Japanese, Korean and Chinese, an ADH1C variant. Such variants produce the most efficient alcoholic dehydrogenase enzyme in comparison to other races with other variants and with this, a higher production of acetaldehyde occurs in the liver. However, 50% of Asians with high acetaldehyde production have another variant called ALDH2, which results in a less efficient acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, reducing acetaldehyde degradation and increasing its concentration in the body.
In other words, people who turn red after consuming alcohol accumulate a greater amount of ethanol, which is totally harmful to health. The reddish skin, which can reach only part of the body or it whole, is just one of the side effects by this factor. Other effects would be headache, nausea, tachycardia and general malaise. More than that, studies indicate that this group of people tend to have esophageal cancer due to the inefficiency of the dehydrogenase acetaldehyde enzyme. Even those who do not drink much are 10 times more likely to develop a malignant tumor in that area of the body.
Why is this genetic anomaly common among Asians?
Studies point to the hypothesis of being a natural selection of Asians survival for protection against parasitic infections, such as Entamoeba histolytica, for example.
Is there a cure?
According to studies, there is no cure yet. If this is your case, it is recommended to do a test in a hospital, because there are other situations that leave the skin red as well. Through the breathalyzer, it is possible to identify the amounts of acetaldehyde that are released by the body during alcohol consumption. If there is an excess of this substance in your body, stop drinking alcohol is undoubtedly the best solution.
Scientific references by the saberatualizado site: