A red face after drinking alcohol is potentially more dangerous than you might think.
In fact, according to several studies published in scientific journals such as PLOS Medicine and Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, there are serious risks associated with the phenomenon called alcohol flushing.
In the PLOS Medicine study, researchers found the response is predominantly due to an inherited deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, which occurs in approximately 36 percent of East Asians.
Scientists also found that though people are generally aware of the flushing response, most are unaware that the deficiency also puts individuals at higher risk of esophageal cancer — one of the deadliest cancers in the world.
According to a study published in the second journal (Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research), those at risk who drank more than four drinks per week had more than double the risk of hypertension compared to men who didn’t drink.
Those unaffected by the deficiency or flushing affect, researchers said, had an increased risk of hypertension only after more than eight alcoholic drinks a week.
Aside from flushed skin and the aforementioned risks, those with the deficiency may immediately suffer symptoms of nausea, headache and rapid heart beat.
The one upside is that those afflicted by the genetic variation tend to avoid alcohol altogether, lowering the rates of alcoholism in their countries.