Why It's Harder For Some People To Get The 'Asian Flush' When They Drink

It’s not about good blood circulation.

Cover image via Japan Times

Does your face turn red when you drink alcohol?

You have what's called Alcohol Flush Syndrome, but because it affects around 50% of East Asians it is often referred to as Asian Glow or Asian Flush.

The list includes Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese along with Southeast Asians like Filipinos and Vietnamese people. Indians and Middle Easterners are not affected.

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There is a common belief that it's a sign of strong energy flow or good blood circulation. However, that's not true.

While it is usually associated with flushing of the neck and face, the condition also results in other serious symptoms such as quickened heart rate, headache, and nausea, even after consuming as little as one alcoholic drink.

So what is Alcohol Flush Syndrome?

It's basically an allergic reaction.

Considered as a symptom of high alcohol sensitivity or even intolerance to alcohol, it occurs in a person who cannot genetically break down acetaldehyde.

When there's a deficiency of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) in your body, your body isn't able to metabolise alcohol efficiently.

The ALDH2 enzyme is required to break down the harmful byproducts of alcohol.

It is mainly a type of enzyme that aids in metabolising alcohol in the liver. Instead of breaking down alcohol into acetic acid as it should normally do, the enzyme would instead build up in excessive amounts. Hence, causing the flushed skin.

Moreover, people with ALDH2 deficiency are also at more risk of getting oesophagal cancer when they drink alcohol

Oesophageal cancer is considered as one of the worst cancer there is.

So if you're suffering from AFS, do identify your drinking limit and avoid exceeding it as much as possible. You could also try eating before or while you drink.

If you can drink without going bright red, your body is metabolising alcohol efficiently

Image via Giphy

Around 45% of East Asians get the redness after consuming at least one to two drinks, which usually occurs up to an hour after they have stopped drinking.

And around less than 10% of them experience the most severe type of Asian Flush, where they get the glow after as little as one-quarter of a cup of wine or beer.

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