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I Want to do a Boozy Experiment, but I Don’t Have the Right Toys

March 21, 2009
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Okay, not a legitimate experiment with a control group and IRB approval for human subjects research, but a little documentation on myself. Uh, that’s more into mad scientist territory, isn’t it?

Anyway, the New York Times ran an article yesterday, Blushing Drinkers at Risk for Esophageal Cancer. The article provides a fairly good explanation of Asian flush, the subject of the piece:

“The flushing response, which may be accompanied by nausea and a rapid heartbeat, is caused mainly by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, a trait shared by more than a third of people of East Asian ancestry — Japanese, Chinese or Koreans. As little as half a bottle of beer can trigger the reaction.”

In sharing this article with people, and in discussing the described condition with others in the past, I’ve had several questions about whether this is the same as rosacea, or the little pinkness some really pale folks might get when drinking, or a number of other things that aren’t really the same. As someone afflicted with (or lucky to have – it’s a great party trick) Asian flush, I can confirm that it’s not just a blushing red when drinking alcohol. It’s a redness that expands beyond the face, a pounding heartbeat, overheated skin, and sometimes itchiness and/or altered breathing.

It’s also a little hard to explain to people, because they tend to assume it’s just a little redness, or they assume the redness=serious drunkenness, when it’s actually the case that I turn red after only drink.

All of this makes me want to actually document some of the effects of alcohol on my 1/4 Korean, Asian flushing self. I’m thinking we need photos, measurable quantities of alcohol over time, pulse, and respiration. I’d be interested in measuring my skin temperature if there is a way to do that (because when I start to flush, I also radiate heat), and blood pressure – while I don’t have the equipment, I’m reasonably certain that it’s heavily affected. I think it would be kind of cool to see a chart of how these variables are affected, because I’ve always noticed them but never documented the exact changes.

In short, I could drink and somebody could take measurements. Who’s with me?😉

A challenge for the librarians: find the relevant OMIM record for this condition.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2009 4:05 pm

    Party at Rachel’s!

  2. MomTFH permalink
    March 21, 2009 4:40 pm

    I’ll be at Vandy in a few weeks. I volunteer to document your vital signs.

  3. March 21, 2009 6:25 pm

    I volunteer to be the subject of an experiment to figure out if ethnic-Ashkenazi Jews have any similar reactions!

  4. Mia S. permalink
    March 21, 2009 6:52 pm

    Your description — “redness that expands beyond the face, a pounding heartbeat, overheated skin, and sometimes itchiness and/or altered breathing” — sounds to me very much like a hot flash of the sort that comes with menopause. I get all these symptoms (other than the itching), plus panting. It would be interesting to know if the Asian flush is in fact the same phenomenon as hot flashes.

    As a point of interest, I recently read somewhere (sorry for the imprecision) that hot flashes are in fact an overreaction to a slight change in body temperature that “normally” would barely be noticed.

  5. March 22, 2009 7:18 am

    MomTFH, really? Yay!🙂

  6. March 23, 2009 6:25 am

    You probably should have lots of folks with various ethnic backgrounds just so that you have a good baseline for comparison.

    I so enjoy using scientific jargon to talk about drinking beer.

  7. March 23, 2009 6:58 am

    W, I know. I could get the Hapa Project to give up their local contacts, then recruit non-part-Asian participants, and do interviews about everybody’s ethnic heritage. Because n=1 is never a good sample size.🙂

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