If you are wondering if you have alcohol intolerance, the answer might be hidden in your DNA. Intolerance to alcohol can be genetic.
Who never experienced the following situation? It is Friday night and you are having drinks with your friends after a long week of hard work. And there is always that one who can manage more glasses of beer in one night than the whole amount of alcohol you can handle during the entire year! You just start wondering why this might happen… Did you know that intolerance to alcohol can be genetic? After only one glass of beer, you have headaches, nausea and your heartbeat is so fast that it seems you are close to a heart attack. No need to say that your Saturday is lost with you laying down on the bed.
Why does this happen? How much alcohol can I drink?
Well, some scientists solved this puzzle a few years ago: “Intolerance to alcohol can be genetic and it is written on your DNA”, they said. Namely, the reason for alcohol intolerance is the defect of the gene which codes for the enzyme ALDH2, responsible for the breakdown of acetaldehyde – an intermediate product in ethanol metabolism even more toxic than ethanol itself. When a person has a defect in the ALDH2 gene, this toxic substance accumulates and that is the reason it can cause trouble. This could be the reason for your over sensitivity towards alcohol. The improper functioning of this enzyme causes acetaldehyde not to be removed from cells fast enough.
Getting to know if you have the predisposition written on your genes can save you lots of headaches.
But it is not all about the ALDH2. The ADH1 could also be associated with the alcohol intolerance. Researchers have also discovered that a mutation can occur in the genes that encode the enzyme ADH1 and this influences greatly the efficiency of ethanol conversion. These mutations are not as defining as the one in the ALDH2 gene, but they still play an important role to determine alcohol intolerance.
The science behind the alcohol metabolism
The enzyme ADH1 is important for alcohol digestion as it is responsible for the first stage of the metabolism of ethanol into acetaldehyde. Alcohol in alcoholic beverages is, chemically speaking, ethanol. Ethanol enters from the digestive system into the blood and has numerous toxic effects. As a result, cells have mechanisms to degrade ethanol into acetic acid, carbon dioxide and water.
The first step in the metabolism of alcohol is the transformation of ethanol to acetaldehyde that, as we mentioned before, is even more toxic than ethanol itself. The negative consequences of drinking alcohol come mostly from the toxic effects of this substance. It is thus important for cells to have mechanisms that can quickly transform acetaldehyde into acetic acid.
DNA test – the best way to discover your alcohol metabolism
Roughly speaking, we can say that among East-Asians, about half of the population might not be able to tolerate alcohol. It is quite common that they have red faces, headaches, nausea, unpleasant itching and increased heart rate immediately after drinking a little bit of alcohol. But this problem can also happen with other peoples. Might be your case?
Getting to know if you have the predisposition written on your genes can save you lots of headaches. Modern technologies like a DNA test that includes the alcohol intolerance can give you answers regarding your alcohol metabolism and alcohol flush. Your genetic makeup is able to tell you if you will have bigger chances to accumulate harmful toxins resulted from alcohol metabolism. Maybe you still don’t suffer from those typical characteristics like flushed red face, headache, nausea, itching and increased heart rate, but the results of your test can show that you might have a predisposition for that and could develop intolerance in the future. We hope not!
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