What Causes “Asian Glow?”

Colin Lu April 3, 2011 5

Some Asians have a natural condition that discourages them from drinking alcohol. About 50 percent of the Japanese, Korean, and Northeastern Chinese population experience a phenomenon called the Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), or what is commonly known as “Asian glow.” AFR is usually associated with flushing of the neck and face, but the condition also results in symptoms such as heightened heart rate, headache, and nausea, even after consuming as little as one alcoholic drink.

Typically, alcohol is metabolized in the liver, where it is oxidized first to acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Most people who experience AFR, however, flush after drinking because they lack the mitochondrial aldehyde dehydro¬genase (ALDH2) enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, resulting in an accumulation of acetaldehyde up to 10 times the normal concentration. The exact genetic nature of the deficient enzyme appears to be the presence of an allele (ALDH2*2) that inacti¬vates ALDH2 enzymes. The allele is, in fact, dominant, although heterozygous individuals show much milder reactions to alcohol than homozygous individuals.

There have been several drugs that stop the flushing, such as histamine and the over-the-counter drug, Pepcid AC. However, these drugs only mitigate the “glow,” i.e. they do not prevent the acetal¬dehyde accumulation, which is suspected to cause long-term liver problems. Thus, individuals who drink often and use drugs to suppress the flushing are at greater risk for liver diseases.

Even though the vernacular term for AFR is “Asian glow,” Asians are not the only ones who suffer from the often embarrassing “glow.” It turns out that Ashkenazi Jews often lack the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme as well. Maybe it’s time, then, to think of a new name for “Asian glow.”

5 Comments »

  1. Stephanie September 27, 2011 at 8:20 PM - Reply

    is it possible for this condition to happen suddenly? is there a cure?

  2. Marcy November 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM - Reply

    I suddenly started experiencing this. One week I’m fine and the next week, I can’t consume alcohol without the “glow”. Dr’s believe I’m missing the ALDH2 enzyme but dont even know how to test for it. Where should I turn for help with this?

  3. Dave Arnold December 15, 2011 at 12:07 AM - Reply

    I have read the medical community basically gives no priority to providing meds that increase ones tolerance to alcohol. Makes sense. Either quit drinking or try No Red Face Formula

  4. asianflushsufferer August 23, 2012 at 2:05 AM - Reply

    I see all kinds of tips online like “use brewers yeast because it contains Aldehyde Dehydrodynase” or “take Pepcid AC so you don’t get red faced” People are so afraid to just get the no red face formula which has all of the nets best tips in one simple place. I got it a http://www.noredfaceformula.info

  5. Erika November 14, 2012 at 5:56 PM - Reply

    I’ve tried them all, and NoGlo is the first thing I have ever had that actually does something. It’s not a ‘cure’ as this would be completely impossible, but it really works well. Because I get less red, but I feel a whole lot better when I drink. http://www.gonoglo.com is the website if people are interested in actually doing something about it.

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