What Causes Alcohol Flush (Asian Glow)

By James Madeiros


There are a lot of reasons that would cause a person to blush. Maybe he got caught with his zipper down. Maybe she got a little too creative with the eye shadow. Or, perhaps they’re both having a reaction to alcohol.

Yes, that person who looks like he’s wearing a noose for a tie may be in a minority of individuals who suffer what is known as an alcohol flush reaction. It is the result of a lack of certain stomach enzymes (ALDH2) that break down toxic acetaldehyde, which then builds up in the blood.

This can cause embarrassment for some and has even resulted in the growth of online communities of red-faced members. There is even a Facebook page devoted to what some call the “Asian Glow,” due to increased susceptibility in people of Asian descent.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that this red-faced response to alcohol consumption may be the sign of something more serious. Scientists with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism note that people who ignore this warning, along with others like nausea and an increased heartbeat, may be exposing themselves to a higher risk of throat cancer.

The reaction is caused when alcohol dilates blood vessels and allows more blood to flow into the face. It can be lessened by eating food while consuming alcohol, but if you experience a serious reaction coupled with other types of discomfort, you may want to decrease your intake and/or consult a doctor.

Update: Our company, Drinkwel, has released a product to help reduce alcohol flush: codeRed | Reduce Alcohol Flush.

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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