Does alcohol consumption make your face go all red? Don't worry, you're not alone – more than one in three people with East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) experience it when they drink.
According to a report by The Conversation, facial flushing is more common in Asian populations because of an inherited deficiency in one of the enzymes-- aldehyde dehydrogenase, which is involved in the breakdown of alcohol.
In the liver, alcohol is broken down in two steps: in the first step, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol into a nasty chemical known as acetaldehyde. Then a second enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, converts the acetaldehyde into acetic acid (the harmless acidic component of vinegar).
Though deficiency of aldehyde dehydrogenase is common among Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, people they always do not inherit full deficiency.
Some people inherit two copies of the defective gene for this enzyme -- one from each parent and their liver makes a faulty version of the enzyme. But, some inherit one defective gene from one parent and therefore produce both the normal and the faulty enzyme.
However, full or partial deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase will make the person experience all sorts of unpleasant sensations after drinking such as instant hangover, nausea, sweating, headache, racing heart, dizziness, and facial flushing.
The good thing for people who have aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency is alcoholism and alcohol-related cancers are much less prevalent. Since they know about the consequences, they tend to drink very little.
But, if someone with aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency still drinks too much, they are at a higher risk of alcohol-related cancers, such as cancer of the oesophagus. The risk is reportedly highest for those with partial deficiency.
So, people who have aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency should avoid alcohol altogether or drink a little.