The Disturbing Reason Some People Go Red When They Drink Booze

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Two double gins down and you might feel on top of the world – but you might look like a tomato who just lost a bloody fight with a strawberry.

You’ve probably noticed it; some people’s faces turn red when they drink, and the effects go deeper than just the superficial, reports Buzzfeed Science.

When you drink booze, an enzyme in your body coverts the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is bad news for your body. Luckily, another enzyme counteracts the acetaldehyde by quickly converting it into acetate – which is pretty much just vinegar.

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But some people have a certain defective gene which gives them a deficient ALDH2 enzyme – the handy enzyme that gets rid of the poison – meaning that acetaldehyde slowly metabolises into acetate in their bodies.

It’s called Alcohol Flush Syndrome and it causes your skin to turn red, as well as other side effects including rapid heartbeat, fainting feeling, nausea, and an increased risk for esophageal cancer.

The syndrome is genetic and only affects around 50% of East Asians, or descendants of Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese people but also Southeast Asians like Filipinos and Vietnamese people.

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However, it’s a myth that people who turn red when they drink have a lower tolerance to alcohol, and antihistamines have been shown to counteract the side effects.

Furthermore, there are conflicting views about what makes you turn red when you drink alcohol with some saying the red flushes stem from alcohol increasing blood flow throughout the body, and thinning the blood allowing more blood to circulate the body.

For more advice on alcohol intolerance, visit the NHS Live Well advice site.


Francesca Donovan

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.