Alcohol flush warns of deadly disease: Stanford study

This is serious news for rosy-cheeked drinkers.

If you knock back a few and feel a warm flush creeping up your face and ears, you’re not alone.

Alcohol flushes are often seen as more annoying than dangerous, but new research suggests they may be a sign that something more serious is going on beneath the surface.

Approximately 8% of the world’s population experiences intoxicated sensations, mostly in the East and Southeast Asian demographics, formerly known as the ‘Asian glow’. But it doesn’t just stop you from going out at night. Flushing is caused by hereditary genetic hiccups. A person with the genetic variant ALDH2*2 is deficient in her ALDH2 enzyme involved in alcohol metabolism.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed exactly what happens when someone experiences an alcohol flush and made the startling discovery that it could indicate a life-threatening illness.

Even just one drink can wreak havoc, experts say.
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The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, looked at mice with the same genetic mutation.

“We found that mice with this variant had impaired vasodilation,” co-author Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, told The Daily Beast. Mice with this variant then showed increased vessel size, increased vessel thickness, and impaired vascular contraction and relaxation.”

Researchers have concluded that there is an inflammatory response in blood vessels that restricts blood flow and can lead to coronary artery disease.

man drinking
But even those who haven’t experienced drunken blush are at risk of health effects.
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Next, they turned their attention to people who volunteered to participate in the study, those who experienced impaired vascular function even after “drinking just one standard drink.” Even a modest evening with just one glass can have devastating effects on your health.

But all hope is not lost. A diabetes drug called empagliflozin has been shown to reduce symptoms in human cells grown in a lab. It can be preventative.

While this drug can prevent the life-threatening effects of alcohol, it cannot stop the blush of booze creeping up on your cheeks.

But research shows that even those without a blushing alcohol glow aren’t safe from the dangers of drinking alcohol. There are cases.

“Research shows that there is no amount or type of alcohol that is healthy,” said the author of the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction, declaring the agency’s new guidance earlier this month. “Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, harms everyone, regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity, tolerance to alcohol, or lifestyle.”

While good news for dry January proponents who may feel some FOMO on a night out, the World Health Organization echoed similar sentiments condemning the use of “group 1 carcinogens.” A global organization called alcohol “a toxic, psychoactive, dependence-producing substance” and said no amount of alcohol could be healthy.

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