Red in the Face

When I’m out drinking with my Japanese pals, I’ve noticed that their faces often go a bright shade of crimson when they get drunk. Apparently there’s a scientific reason for this chameleonic reaction. If it happens to you, you’re missing an enzyme that breaks down booze.

About fifty percent of people in Eastern Asia get this “alcohol flush reaction.” Before their first sip of sake they might be as pale as an anaemic geisha, but after five minutes of drinking they’ll resemble a sunburned Irish bricklayer with high blood-pressure, stepping out of a sauna on a hot August afternoon.
This doesn’t stop the average Japanese businessman from getting smashed with his colleagues. They just ignore their Elmo-esque visages, and soldier valiantly on.

It’s not just Asian people that get this. I remember one of my Aunties at every family gathering getting rosy cheeks after a couple of mouthfuls of wine.

For you science fans out there, apparently this pesky missing enzyme is called “aldehyde dehydrogenase 2”, and it breaks down acetaldehyde, which gets made when your body metabolizes booze. Acetaldehyde is a toxin, so when your body can’t break it down, it builds up and makes your face as scarlet as a slapped arse. You can read a proper scientific explanation on Wikipedia.

On the plus side, this inactive enzyme means you can get shit-faced very quickly and cheaply.
I wish I had this problem. I’d save a fortune in beer money!

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12 Responses to Red in the Face

  1. Alec says:

    Apparently Jewish people have this enzyme more than usual which means it takes them longer than the average (caucasian) person to get drunk. Damn.

  2. roaf says:

    Well, at least that could be good for winning drinking games!

  3. Woeful says:

    You learn something new every day… “a sunburned Irish bricklayer” LOL!

  4. simaldeff says:

    As Jewish isn’t an ethny – like Christian isn’t one – which ethny do you refer to?Ashkenazi? Sephardic? Mizrahim? Falashas? which one?
    btw … roaf I’d better have that enzyme and have to spend money to get drunk rather than not. The less time you take to evacuate alcohol the better for your body and your brain cells. I personally have a lot of this enzyme (apparently) but I do get drunk easily (a couple cups of sake is enough to get me drunk) but I get through the drunken->hangover->sober cycle really fast (a couple hours if I stopped drinking after only a bottle of sake).

  5. Shu says:

    You never used my solution for the quick piss up?…
    On the way to the train station.. stop off at the local 7/11 and pick up a One Cup.. and a beer..
    Drink the 1 cup.. have a nice beer on the train.. One Cup is nice on cold days..
    As well some chicken on a stick..
    Man.. i miss the days of food on a stick…
    Hasn’t really caught on in Melbourne.. or the drinking on public transport.. and the drink in public areas….
    What’s wrong with this world!!!

  6. roaf says:

    I still drink on public transport- you’ve seen the evidence!

  7. Willard says:

    gaijintonic.com, how do you do it?

  8. Ceece says:

    My face goes red when I drink but it’s because of Rosacea, the so-called ‘celtic curse’ which might explain all the red faced, pissed-up irishmen.

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