When you drink alcoholic beverages with your friends, family, or associates on occasion, you may notice the changes that your body goes through. For some, it might be difficult not to notice at all. You may find yourself intoxicated, and the volume of alcohol that would bring one to that state can vary from person to person. One biological component that plays its role during this process (to varying degrees) is an enzyme known as ALDH2. This enzyme can break things down, and, of course, the exact part that it plays in all of this can be broken down below.
What Is ALDH2?
First off, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) is an enzyme that is present in all tissues at really small levels. The liver is the area with the highest concentration of ALDH2. When you drink alcoholic beverages, most of the alcohol consumed becomes a toxin called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a carcinogen, meaning that it can cause cancer. ALDH2 breaks it down in the liver through a process known as alcohol dehydrogenase. ALDH2 converts acetaldehyde into acetic acid (or ethanoic acid), a protic solvent that renders the toxin non-poisonous to the cells. ALDH2 can be useful, but there is a large number of people that lack more of it than others.
There exists a hereditary disorder known as ALDH2 deficiency. This is not to say that the disorder means ALDH2 would be completely absent, but rather that it would be operating at a lower level. This mutation is prevalent in 8% of the world population and 35-45% of the East Asian population. It is responsible for Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), which is also known as an “Asian Glow.” This is accompanied by such symptoms as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. The deficiency means that the acetaldehyde could accumulate possibly to the point where it could potentially cause cancer or even liver disease.
Those who experience AFR should be aware that they may have ALDH2 deficiency, and therefore be wary of their health and drinking habits.
In general, you should be very aware of your drinking habits. But if you have ALDH2 deficiency, then you should reduce the amount of acetaldehyde that your body would be taking in. Drink less alcohol, perhaps even sticking with beverages that have low alcohol content. You could also alternate with water, which would be one method of preventing AFR and a subsequent hangover.
Other methods would be to use hangover prevention pills or visiting an IV therapy clinic as properly instructed. It is very important that you do not go overboard when you are drinking, even if it is for celebratory reasons. You want to be healthy enough to be able to celebrate more future occasions.
Now that you are aware of how ALDH2 works, as well as how a lack of it would mean that you may have ALDH2 deficiency and get AFR, you can take action to prevent anything that would damage your health or make you feel any discomfort.
Going beyond your drinking limits can be very consequential, both short term and long term. So it is best to be wary of your habits as you drink, and the effects that it may have depending on how ALDH2 works within you. Be mindful of your body as there is no shame in drinking less alcohol or being careful of your own safety.