Getting a red face after downing a couple of alcoholic beverages is not a sign of strong qi (energy flow) or good blood circulation, but rather, it is an indication that your body is not metabolising alcohol efficiently. This phenomenon called Asian Flush Syndrome is common among Asians of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent.
“If you are Asian and drink alcohol frequently, you may have a higher risk of getting stomach or oesophageal cancer or peptic ulcers due to a genetic inability to efficiently process acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism,” says Dr Victor Lee Tswen Wen, Consultant Surgeon, Department of Hepatobiliary & Transplant Surgery, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.
How well the body metabolises or breaks down alcohol is dependent on two enzymes:
- alcohol dehydrogenase which converts alcohol into acetaldehyde and
- acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) which breaks down acetaldehyde into harmless substances.
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