Home > Buzz > Science behind a red-face after drinking alcohol

Science behind a red-face after drinking alcohol

To go any bar or pub and you probably see people with a red or flush face after drinking alcohol. Maybe you are one of those people that will have a red or flush face after drinking alcohol. With this, most people would think that having a red or flush face after drinking alcohol is good as it means healthy blood circulation, but if that is what you think, I suggest you think again.

People whose face flush or turn red after downing alcohol are actually suffering from a condition called Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR). Also coined as the Asian Flush, it’s not just Asian people who suffer from this condition. In fact, 500 million people worldwide suffer from it, with 50% of them being of East Asian descent.

Normally, when people drink alcohol, this is how their body breaks down the alcohol: In the liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase converts the alcohol to acetaldehyde. Then a different enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase coverts that acetaldehyde into acetic acid. In addition, your body also processes alcohol in the kidneys, leaving your body when you pee.

But for those with AFR, which is a mutation that makes them unable to produce aldehyde dehydrogenase one of the enzymes that metabolizes alcohol in your liver, when they drink rather than break down alcohol into acetic acid as mentioned above, after converting the alcohol to acetaldehyde, because it cannot be broken down due to lack of aldehyde dehydrogenase, the acetaldehyde build up in excessive amounts, causing blood vessels to dilate, which leads to a flushed skin complexion. And this is why your face looks red when you drink alcohol.

In addition, if your face is flushed or red after drinking, and you feel like vomiting or have nausea, headache, it becomes even more certain that you have AFR.


Now, as I said earlier, if you think a red face is good, think again. Now here is why. Because of the excessive acetaldehyde in your body that causes the red face, it is actually bad for your health. Since acetaldehyde toxic than alcohol and a known cancer-causing agent, can trigger inflammation in the upper gastrointestinal tract, cause DNA damage and increase your risk for gastrointestinal diseases, namely oesophageal and stomach cancers as well as peptic ulcers, and even lead to cancer in the worst case scenario.

If you have Asian flush syndrome and drink two beers a day, your risk of oesophageal cancer is up to 10 times higher than that of a person who has normal aldehyde dehydrogenase.

For those seeking a cure, sorry folks; there is no cure for AFR. However, even though it cannot be cured, it can be controlled by not drinking or drinking moderately, choosing drink woth less alcohol content and avoiding binge drinking.

Your Comments