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February 23, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Seeing red

sake time!And here I just thought some people got embarrassed when they drank. In this week's guest column, Owl Meat examines the red-faced drinking phenomenon. Just like in poker, having a flush can work to one's advantage. Owl Meat? Are you there? Ah, here he is:

I had a Korean friend whose face would flush red when he drank alcohol. Other than being a fun party trick, I never gave it much thought. I knew that it was common with some Asians and not dangerous.

Then I read an interesting article in New Scientist on the topic. It turns out that this phenomenon is, in fact, a very advantageous piece of recently evolved physiology. 

A genetic study shows that the reaction is from a genetic mutation that occurred about 10,000 years ago.

Coincidentally, it occurred at a time when east Asians were learning to cultivate rice and ferment it into alcoholic beverages ...

"The mutation causes alcohol to be metabolised at 100 times the speed that it otherwise would be. As the enzyme removes alcohol so quickly from the blood stream, it protects people from the harmful effects of alcohol, and Su believes it confers an evolutionary advantage: a study in the Han Chinese suggests that those carrying the mutation have the lowest risk of alcoholism."

The red flush is a by-product of the rapid alcohol metabolism. This allows people to metabolize alcohol at 100 times the rate of others? That's amazing.

You can see how this mutation would have benefits and natural selection would favor those with it.

If the alcohol is metabolized that fast, I suppose that one would feel little of the desired effects of it.

Fascinating. I leave you with some vintage Siouxsie Sioux.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:11 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays


i would caution against the assumption that this is advantageous. especially considering there is another, more frequent mutation responsible for asian flushing found in the enzyme ALDH2.

in people with flushing and this mutation, acetaldehyde (the toxic product of alcohol metabolism) is inefficiently metabolised. acetaldehyde is the most toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism, and responsible for hangovers and many negative symptoms of alcohol consumption.

this also predisposes sufferers to a higher risk of esophageal cancer.

Good points, Greg. So don't anybody go fiddling with your DNA. As I recall that leads to some kind of devastating world war in one the the Star Trek movies or series.

kHAN ... !!!

Whenever I drink alot of beer,I know I'm always flushing. Someone said its because its a dire uretic or something .

Have you ever done a write-up on bar tab names? One night during Snowpocalypse I was "SOLO FRUIT," while being solo but ordering nothing fruit related. I have been "GIRL" at more than one location where I suppose I was the only lonely beer drinking female.

Yoi Tanabe is a Los Angeles based model you may have seen on NBC's Deal or No Deal. She also suffers from Asian flush, a condition affecting roughly half of all Asian drinkers that turns her face and neck beet red after just a sip of alcohol.

Ms. Tanabe joined a group of young people to test a new functional shot/mixer that helps prevent morning after headache, nausea, muscle pain and other 'hangover' effects by helping the body to naturally process alcohol toxicity.

Watch as Yoi and her friends enjoy a night of partying in the Hangover Capital of the World, and see the astounding results for yourself.

Mr. McGoon:
Your embarassing pun, whether intentional or not, really has no place in this blog's serious scientific discussion of the vicissitudes of the Asian genome.

I.M. Pei
Flushing, NY

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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