If you’re from East or Southeast Asia, you’re probably very familiar with the alcohol flush reaction known as the “Asian glow.” I turn red and people ask me if I managed to get a tan that night at a bar or at a party.
The flushing response is the result of a genetic quirk. More specifically, it is an inherited deficiency of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). The gene variant itself is called ALDH2*2 and affects about 8% of the world’s population.
Often an embarrassing thing that occurs during a night out, more and more researchers are discovering that light can actually have life-threatening effects on the human body. published a paper in the journal on January 25. science translation medicine It turns out that people with the flushing gene variant may have an increased risk of heart disease. Findings suggest that people with the variant may want to reconsider their drinking habits.
Specifically, the variant causes vascular inflammation in response to alcohol intake. This restricts blood flow throughout the body and can lead to coronary artery disease.
“We found that mice with this variant had impaired vasodilation,” study co-author Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, told the Daily Beast in an email. “When treated with alcohol, mice with this variant showed increased vessel size, increased vessel thickness, and impaired vascular contraction and relaxation.”
The authors took part in a new study and found that people with ALDH2*2 suffered from vascular dysfunction even after drinking small amounts of alcohol or “one standard drink.” said Wu. This could mean that any amount of alcohol is potentially dangerous for people with the variant, especially if they already have pre-existing aggravating factors such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or a family history of high cholesterol. there is.
But there was a sliver of hope. Researchers found that a diabetes drug called empagliflozin appeared to be effective in neutralizing symptoms in cultured human cells.It also improved vascular function in mice. This drug may be able to help humans at risk for heart disease because of the mutation.
But Wu cautioned that the drug doesn’t “directly stimulate ALDH2 activity,” meaning it doesn’t target the flushing response. “However, our study showed that empagliflozin may be used as a preventive measure for vascular disease, especially in high-risk patient cohorts such as his ALDH2*2 carrier who drinks excessively. he explained.
This just adds to the body of evidence that drinking alcohol is actually terrifying for people with the alcohol flash variant. It also increases the risk of cancer.
So in the meantime, it’s important to remember every line in the beer commercials and drink responsibly. Of course, easier said than done.
“We recognize that it is very difficult for people to abstain from alcohol completely for a variety of reasons,” Wu said. We encourage you to recognize the powerful scientific findings that do and to reduce your alcohol consumption as much as possible.”