Alcohol and the Asian flush reaction

Lisa Ye

Abstract


A substantial proportion of Asian populations suffer from the ‘Asian flush reaction’, which is characterized by adverse reactions upon the consumption of alcohol. Common symptoms include heart facial flushing, heart palpitations, and nausea. These negative reactions are caused by a genetically polymorphic aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzyme that is deficient and fails to break down acetaldehyde, causing an inability to metabolize standard alcohol. The accumulated acetaldehyde in the human body results in serious health consequences for Asian American populations. This targeted population faces an increased risk of developing disease including colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and markedly head and neck cancers. Western social and cultural trends in alcohol use among Asian American youths demonstrate a great influence by social pressures to consume alcohol. Due to severity of the public health implications, it is important to educate and raise awareness of this health risk and explore a harm reducing method in order to facilitate safe alcohol consumption for affected individuals.

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