Asian Glow, is it preventable?

cognac

Asian glow, or alcohol flush syndrome, is not the inability to metabolize alcohol. Instead, 80% of Asians have gene variants of alcohol dehydrogenase that metabolize ethanol to acetaldehyde more efficiently.

In addition, around 50% of Asians also express the mitochondrial ALDH2 allele, exclusively inherited maternally, which inhibits the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme. What ensues is the buildup of acetaldehyde, causing red flushes or botches known as Asian Glow.

ADH5

Crystallographic structure of alcohol dehydrogenase

Strangely, people with the mitochondrial ALDH2 allele often turn red  and exhibit the physical appearance of drinking more while metabolizing alcohol more quickly. The result is they do not feel “buzzed” or drunk yet appear to be so.

Crystallographic structure of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase

Crystallographic structure of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase

The International HapMap Project, a human genome project to uncover genetic patterns, observed that the rs671 allele of the ALDH2 gene responsible for Asian Glow is native to East Asia. The allele is postulated to have originated in Han China and positively selected for at some point. Elevated acetaldehyde may confer protection against some parasitic infections.

Heartburn medicine, alka-seltzers, and H2-antagonists are often anecdotally touted for effectiveness in preventing or counteracting Asian Glow, but claims are not substantiated by randomized, controlled studies.

drinks

There is evidence from animal studies that glucose and fructose, monomer carbohydrates, increase ethanol metabolism in an alcohol-dehydrogenase-independent pathway.

Some drinkers also claim tolerance for ethanol can be built up through regular training, but since acetaldehyde is carcinogenic (cancer-causing), excess drinking should probably be discouraged.

Source 1, 2, 3

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4 Responses

  1. Timmy says:

    “There is evidence from animal studies that glucose and fructose, monomer carbohydrates, increase ethanol metabolism in an alcohol-dehydrogenase-independent pathway.”

    2 things:
    1. Did people seriously conduct studies where they got animals drunk?
    2. Is eating glucose/fructose before drinking good or bad in trying to decrease the glow?

    • DrDYEL says:

      1. Yes, sort of. You don’t need to get animals drunk to gauge metabolic pathways. In vitro tests often accompany animal studies to elucidate specifics.

      2. Both; depending on what’s eaten (ie glycemic index), glucose levels in the bloodstream are fairly responsive. The animal studies suggest glucose and fructose presence increases ethanol metabolism.

  2. Ali Ullo says:

    Heartburn is usually associated with regurgitation of gastric acid (gastric reflux) which is the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)..”:..

    Please do look over this useful blog
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