Whether it’s shaojiu, sake, soju or any other alcoholic drink, many Asians turn red immediately after few shots of them.
This seemingly unique phenomenon is called the “Asian Flush” or “Asian Glow.” It’s reportedly more common among Northeast Asians, such as those of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descents.
It’s especially embarrassing because of the notion that it makes one “wasted” too quickly, resulting to awkward social situations. For males, it’s often attached to the idea of unmanliness.
See, it happens not because they’re drunker than everyone else. It’s not a sign of some strong qi or energy flow either. The underlying science is all about genetics, and that’s not something you blame someone for. Ever.
The Problem with Asians
When alcohol is consumed, it is broken down into a compound called acetaldehyde through the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.
Acetaldehyde is a histamine—an organic compound involved in immunity—responsible for flushing by dilating blood vessels and allowing more blood flow. It is later broken down into harmless compounds through a second enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2).
Unfortunately, Asians have two problems here. First, 80% of the group have hyperactive alcohol dehydrogenase, SingHealth noted. This speeds up the breakdown of alcohol into acetaldehyde by as much as 100 times faster. Second, many Asians have an inactive variant of ALHD2. This results to a slower breakdown of acetaldehyde into harmless compounds.
The synergistic effect of both conditions is flushing that escalates quickly but wears off slowly.
Curing and Preventing the Asian Flush
The Asian flush is a physiologic response, but apparently, there is one way to cure or even prevent it from happening. According JT Tran on ABCs of Attraction, the way to go is through Pepcid AC Complete.
Pepcid is an antacid/anti-histamine drug generically called famotidine. As you guessed, it antagonizes acetaldehyde, thereby saving one Asian from the dreaded glow. Tran advised:
“Remember: the trick to defeating Asian Flush is to take a tablet of PEPCID AC about 45 minutes before you take your first drink. Doing this during this timeframe–not after you first drink–will ensure best results.”
Still, anything that goes inside our body must be controlled. Tran warned:
“Be careful though–don’t pound those drinks just because you don’t feel hot-faced or look flushed. You still get as drunk as you normally would – and no one likes a sloppy-drunk!”
So there you have it. We do not endorse self-administration of medications here at NextShark, but feel free to consult your physician if anything. At the end of the day, we just hate flushing as much as you do.