The majority of the alcohol (aka the chemical ethanol) that enter our body is cleared via a two-step process involving two enzymes.
In the first step of alcohol metabolism, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) converts ethanol to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical. But is usually short-lived, because it is quickly converted to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) in the second step of alcohol metabolism. The end product acetate is easily broken down to carbon dioxide and water.
People with genetic variants in the alcohol metabolism pathway either generate acetaldehyde too quickly, or are unable to eliminate it fast enough. This results in the dangerous build up of acetaldehyde in the body, even when moderate amounts of alcohol is consumed.
A simple mouth swab is all we need to find out whether you have inherited DNA changes that affect your ability to metabolize alcohol, and may increase your risk of serious health complications.
People with genetic variants in the alcohol metabolism pathway either generate acetaldehyde too quickly, or are unable to eliminate it fast enough. This results in a dangerous build up of toxic acetaldehyde in the body, even when moderate amounts of alcohol are consumed.
ADH1B and ADH1C – converts ethanol to acetaldehyde (first step of alcohol metabolism). Variants increase ADH enzyme activity leading to the build up of acetaldehyde.
ALDH2 – converts acetaldehyde to acetate (second step of alcohol metabolism). A common variant decreases ALDH enzyme activity, slowing the removal of toxic acetaldehyde.
HEALTH RISKS FOR HETEROZYGOTES
Heterozygotes are people who inherit two different versions of a particular gene. ADH1B, ADH1C and ALDH2 genes have a cumulative affect. For example,
Individuals with two slow ALDH2 alleles have:
– Zero detectable ALDH enzyme activity
– Severe side effects
Heterozygotes for ALDH2 (one fast allele and one slow allele) have:
– 30-50% reduction in ALDH enzyme activity
– Moderate side effects
– An increased risk of health complications
10-fold increase risk of esophageal cancer for moderate drinker
90-fold increased risk for heavy drinkers
If you are genetically susceptible, every drink you consume is harming your health
Immediate reactions: facial flushing, nausea, dizziness, headaches, increased heart rate, insomnia, severe hangovers
Increased risk of esophageal cancer: 10X increased risk for moderate drinkers and up to a 90X increased risk for heavy drinkers