Women and Asians can’t hold their alcohol as well as European men

If you thought it interesting that women have less of aldehyde dehydrogenase, then you’ll no doubt be interested to know that many Asians have a deficiency.(1) This is why Chinese, Japanese and Koreans can be much more sensitive to alcohol than Europeans and Americans of European ancestry.(1) You’ll notice that Asians with this deficiency are susceptible to alcohol-induced flushing.(1)

The adaptation that those of European ancestry have to be able to handle alcohol may be due differences of water intake in the continents, according to Sharon Moalem, Ph.D.(2) To reduce disease by avoiding pathogens in the water, early Asians boiled water for drinking tea.(2) Early Europeans, however, may have used fermentation so the alcohol would kill the pathogens.(2)

1. Wall, TL, Peterson, CM, Peterson, KP, Johnson, ML, Thomasson, HR, et al. Alcohol Metabolism in Asian-American Men with Genetic Polymorphisms of Aldehyde Dehydrogenase. Annals of Internal Medicine; September 2007:127(5)376-379. Available at http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/127/5/376. Accessed on October 4, 2008.

2. Moalem, S. Survival of the Sickest: The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity; 2006. New York: HarperCollins.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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