Oh, I have Asian Flush, which means my liver is working fine! And I have good circulation!!
These are the MYTHS that are circulating around all of us.
Did you know that, about 50% of the Japanese, Korean, Northeastern Chinese individuals experience Asian Flush, aka Alcohol Flush Reaction, after drinking.
What is Asian Flush?
Asian Flush is the facial flushing after drinking alcohol. It often occurs in people who are highly sensitive and less tolerant to alcohol.
Besides flushing of your neck and face, it also results in tonnes of different symptoms. For example, an increase in heart rate, headache or even nausea. This may happen in an individual even after consuming as little as 1 pint of beer.
Facial flushing may not seem serious, but it helps in indicating that the individuals have higher alcohol sensitivity as well as higher risk of hypertension and certain cancers.
How do we metabolize alcohol?
After drinking alcohol, our body will break down the alcohol, so that it can be flushed out from the body easily.
Alcohol is first broken down into acetaldehyde, by the enzyme ADH. Then, acetaldehyde is broken down into acetate by the enzyme ALDH2.
What causes Asian Flush?
Do you know that there is about 80% of Asians who have the gene variant which reduces the efficiency of breaking down acetaldehyde to acetate?
The enzyme ALDH2 is mainly responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde (toxic) into acetate (non-toxic). When you have the gene variant mentioned above, it can cause ALDH2 to be inactive. As a result acetaldehyde accumulates in the blood, up to 10 times concentration than the normal.
Acetaldehyde is one of the toxic metabolites of alcohol. So, when acetaldehyde accumulates in your blood, it can cause your blood vessels to dilate, which leads to flushing and increasing heartbeat.
- J Brooks, P., Enoch, M., Goldman, D., Li, T. and Yokoyama, A. (2009). The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption. PLoS Med, 6(3).
- Lu, C. (2011). What Causes “Asian Glow?”. [online] Yale Scientific Magazine. Available at: http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/04/what-causes-asian-glow/ [Accessed 12 Jul. 2019].
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2009). Alcohol Flush Signals Increased Cancer Risk among East Asians. [online] Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/alcohol-flush-signals-increased-cancer-risk-among-east-asians [Accessed 12 Jul. 2019].