When I saw this article on 47% of Taiwan’s poulation lacks alcohol-metabolizing gene posted on Facebook and read the details, I laughed, since it is pretty common that Asians often do get the “Asian flush”. ALDH2 is an alcohol-metabolizing gene and if you lack that gene, you don’t metabolize alcohol so easily:
“The percentage of people with ALDH2 Deficiency, also known as the “alcohol flush reaction,” in Taiwan is the highest in the world at 47%, said Che-Hong Chen, senior research scientist with Stanford University’s Mochly-Rosen Lab, during a seminar the university jointly held with Taipei Medical University on Tuesday.
The deficiency is common in ethnic Han Chinese people living in coastal areas. The percentage is 35% in China, 30% in Japan and 20% in South Korea. Taiwan’s indigenous people groups do not lack the gene.”
I always thought that Koreans had a stereotype of being the biggest drinkers in Asia, but now I can understand why – they have the highest percentage of people who can hold their liquor.
There’s a downside to lacking that gene if you drink – if you drink on a regular basis, you increase risks of mouth, throat and esophageal cancers by 50-fold over people with the gene!