Any white people with alcohol flush reaction?


Is it possible?Im irish, with absolutely no asian or non european heritage in my distant family tree. Ive trawled the internet and studies are so limited about this potentially very dangerous condition if you drink. Some studied have said the gene is ‘non existant’ in caucasians but others say its up to 10 percent.Another study I saw said blushing in caucasians is realtively common and the blushing from drinking in caucasians is caused by a different thing and is not assocayed with excessive acetaldehyde in the blood while drinking. Im so confused, I used to blush a bit when out for drinks when I was younger, but other times I didnt, I dont blush at all now when drinking (4 years since I first drank ,at 18, Im 22 now.)I looked though my old photos of me at parties when drunk when I was 18 and 19 and most of them I had zero blush. So I dont know if it was just being in a warm club/bar that made me blush sometimees or what. I drink about 12 units of alcohol every week at a party,Im in college. But im so worried I might have one defective enzyme and Ive been doing huge damage to my body in the last 4 years. How many years of drinking would you need to do to cause the cancer of head and oesaphagus? So little information, for such a potentially dangerous thing that affects hundreds of millions of asians, have many of you got dna tests to deteremine if you have it? I dont want to give up alcohol unless I have th defective enzyme and its doing extra damage to my body

Drinking at the levels I am is potentially increasing my chances of oesaphagus cancer by 80 times , and oesaphagus cancer seems to only return to levels of non drinkers after 15-20 years according to most studies, though every study Ive seen has neglected to show the critically important factor of how long the person drank for before quitting alcohol. Again confusing and lacking information on such an important issue


‘A test dose of ethanol (0.4 g/kg body weight) confirmed the presence of the alcohol-induced flushing, which was of much shorter duration and intensity than that of the Oriental alcohol-induced flusher, as measured by laser Doppler velocimetry, and was not associated with high circulating concentrations of acetaldehyde. Topical administration of 5 M acetaldehyde showed an enhanced erythema in Caucasian flushers compared to non-flushing controls.’


You raise some really interesting points wikka. I am Asian myself, but I have 2 Caucasian friends who also get a red face from alcohol. Some studies do seem to suggest that this is because of the same enzymatic deficiencies possessed by a lot of Asians, but like you said, there is some conflicting research too.

What I can tell you is that when my friends take my flush reducing supplements, they actually experience better results than me. These supps are designed to reduce acetaldehyde, so it could be indicative that there is some acetaldehyde link even in Caucasians.

As for the cancer risk, this concerns me a lot too. Basically, like smoking, it’s just a risk. Someone can smoke all their lives and not get cancer, and another person can get it after a few years. It all comes down to the individual’s succeptability, their lifestyle and exposure to other carcinogens, their immune system and also a bit of luck too I guess. The way I see it, reducing acetaldehyde is a good thing. I make sure to drink only on occassion and when I do I take measures to reduce the acetaldehyde.


Thanks so much for your reply! Seems like a really quiet forum I wanst expecting any replies for a while.I really am so shocked theres not more literature on this issue though, most of it is unsurprisingly focused on asian populations but if ten percent of caucasians really have one defective gene, and it seems like 60-75% of most caucasians drink alcohol, then that it potentially still tends of thousands of people being put at massive increased risk of serious cancers in western countries that have absolutely no public awareness of the condition.I also found it quite alarming to see so many threads and websites online giving makeup tips to asians to hide the flush reaction, it seems like a lot of people even of asian descent are very unaware of the dangers drinking poses for them beyond getting red skin, and of the few articles/thread that cared to mention the cancer risk at all it was generally just casually mentioned in passing that drinking if you have flush syndrom increases cancer, without delving into anymore details. Of course many young people will ignore that, as it doesnt sound that scary, lots of things increase risk of cancer,we all hear things like oh mcdonalds burgers increase your risk of cancer by 10% but most peple dont eat mcdonalds to excess so dont think about consequences which is fine, but its not being made clear people that even moderate drinking of alcohol poses massive cancer risk.Lots of people who hear about the ‘risks’ of drining with flush syndrome probably think it will only have a big effect on them if they are an alcoholic. I rang the irish liver diseas hospital and two people I talked to had never heard fo asian flush syndrome! When did you start taking those meds for acetaldehyde? I think if I find out that I have the defective enzyme I will just go cold turkey and pray to god I dont get oesaphagus cancer int he near future…this is depressing

I do regularly get flush cheeks though in normal everyday situations if Im embarassed or warm. Im sitting in a library with a jacket on and just took a picture and it looks very similar to the photos of me while I was drinking. So Im really hoping I was just warm during those photos at parties/clubs/bars. The flush is always just in the apple of my cheeks, I dont have any redness in my forhead or neck or jaw if i ever flush when drinking…hopefully a good sign


Two other potentially relevant studies. The language used in many of these studies is so inaccessible. Maybe you could make a better bash at deciphering it than me?

The pattern of twin pair concordance for reactions suggests low heritability, so alcohol reactions in subjects of European descent are not caused by a single gene of high penetrance of the type found in the Asian alcohol flush reaction.
This line especially seems interesting…

This study as well

Theres pretty much been no large scale studies of flush reactions in any race other than asians. Again, when you watch cartoons and stuff and look at old paintings from european countries, blushing and red eyes was often used to show that somebody was drunk. I really dont thin its very uncommon, if I saw people at parties with blushing cheeks I would really not immediately think it was an alcohol intolerance. Again no study has said what level of blushing signifies an intolerance, lots of people blush for natural reasons, how are you supposed to know the difference? I just opened an article a few minutes ago the heading line was go red when drinking? You should read this…

Then the opening line was, if you get a bit rosy when drinking thats pretty normal and happens lots of people, but if you go beetroot red you probably have an intolerance. Why did this person say this without knowing?They dont even have any real evidence to believe that, even though I hope its true but I dont want to be complacent. I havnt seen any study that said if you only blush a little you dont have intolerance, though I wish Id find a study that says that. I feel like Im going crazy trying to find any concrete info on this dangerous condition and jordana youre literally the only person Ive seen on my entire day of trawling the internet who seems to actually 1)really know a lot about flush reaction 2) care about its effects and cancer risk


Another interesting study that I cant quite get the entire grip of.

This line…
Yoshida et al. (1989) demonstrated that among Caucasians alcohol
flushing can be related to abnormalities of ALDH1. In 9 unrelated
Caucasian alcohol flushers, they found 1 who exhibited low activity
(10-20% of normal) and another who exhibited moderately low activity
(60%) and altered kinetic properties. The electrophoretic mobilities of
these 2 samples were not altered. Immunologic quantitation indicated
that the amount of protein in the 2 samples was not reduced in parallel
with the enzyme deficiency. In the first case, the daughter of the
proposita also had very low enzyme activity and alcohol flushing.


'Caucasians are known to experience alcohol-related
flushing reactions, but with a much lower prevalence than is
found among Asian groupS.2 The specific alleles that have
been identified as important in the etiology of flushing
reactions in Asians are nearly nonexistent in Caucasian
groups;16,17 therefore, flushing among Caucasians may be
etiologically distinct from that experienced by Asians. ’

Sorry for spamming you with articles…hope you find them interesting!


Another study claiming alcohol flush in europeans caused by a different gene.
‘What’s interesting about this ALDH22 allele is that it is carried only by people of East Asian descent. Roughly one third of the eastern Asian population carries this mutation. Some people of European descent experience a similar phenomenon, even though they may not carry the ALDH22 allele. The exact genetic cause for the “European flush” is not yet known.’

Also this map I found apparently shows the gene is completely non existant in europeans.
Really so frustrating to see such a large number of legitimate research that completely contradict one another

So overall the sense Im getting is that it is possible for white people to have the gene that causes flushing but if a white person has flushing it is actually more likely to be caused by some other factor


0.0% of customers on 23andme of european descent have ever tested positive for deficient ALDH2 enzyme

0.04% African american
0.01% middle eastern and south asian
0.05% Hispanic
38% east asian


Alcohol flush response in native american subjects shown to not be related to the oriental alcohol flush gene. The flushing was of milder variety with much less negative side effects than those that occur in oriental subjects and the flush response was not correlated with elevated levels of acetaldehyde in the blood, none of the white patients had any flush reponse in this study. The white subjects, the flushing native americans and the non-flushing native americans all metabolised alcohol similarly efficiently


This is very interesting — I have a white friend who flushes just as badly as me (we usually stick together when we’re out drinking) I’ll pass this on. Strange that it isn’t effected by ALDH2 genes, which means it’s more likely to be a histamine response to sulphites (perhaps)?

Did you find out anything more about this on your travels, @Wikka12 ?


There seems to be a lot of conflicting data when it comes to ALDH2 deficiency and Caucasians. Wikka, you’ve done an amazing job to present all of the above! Thank you, I found reading them very stimulating. Unless i’m reading them wrong, it does seem that the weight of evidence suggests that the deficient ALDH2 might not occur in Caucasians.

If that’s the case, it could be that the redness is a result of something else. One of my friends suggested to me today that he thinks his redness comes from a reaction to one of the ingredients in alcohol - namely tannins or sulphites, rather than acetaldehyde… kind of along the lines of what bartleby has just mentioned (as I type this)…

If this was to be the case, perhaps all the acetaldehyde cancer stuff is less relevant?

As an Asian person who suffers from alcohol flushing because of aldh2 deficiency, I can say that the red face is not the only noticeable symptom. Aside from the red face that usually occurs 30 to 40 minutes after drinking alcohol, most people with aldh2 deficiency also experience extremely unpleasant symptoms that are overwhelming to the point where the more positive effects of the alcohol are more or less non-existent. Some of these symptoms include difficulty breathing, strong pounding headaches, rapid heart beat and an overall unpleasant feeling - almost the opposite of what people are trying to achieve by consuming alcohol.

In fact, there is a drug called Disulfiram ( that is designed for people with alcoholism. It replicates the symptoms of ALDH2 deficiency in non-ALDH2 deficient individuals in order to turn them off drinking alcohol (that’s how bad the experience is with ALDH2 deficiency)… so if a Caucasian gets a red face from alcohol but can actually enjoy alcohol consumption without any of these other symptoms, it could possibly be an indication that it is not a result of a deficient ALDH2 enzyme, but something else like a reaction to sulphites or tannins?


Great point regarding the Disulfiram. Real ‘Asian flush’ from ALDH2 deficiency is accompanied by symptoms that are clinically shown to deter even alcoholics from consuming alcohol.


A recent discussion with an Irish guy I met who gets as red as me (Korean heritage and I flush like a mofo) when he drinks made me aware of histamine allergy/intolerance being one of the main causes of flushing in caucasians who flush. There’s also some other allergy like symptoms that are tell-tell signs like rashes and abnormal swelling, but flushing is sort of the low-level effect seen most commonly in Caucasians.

I haven’t had the time to do the deep dive into the research behind this, and it was kind of circumstantial. But Considering that a lot of the studies posted here are stating that it’s not a gene or enzyme issue causing flushing in caucasians, perhaps that’s a good path to look at?


I have not had time to look for anymore studies, though I think I have found all of the ones that focus on the effects on races other than asians !
I think I will get a 23andme type thing done to test for it and then we will definitively know whether a white person can truly flush and not be deficient.

I have considered the tannins aspect but I also seem to flush from vodka and whiskey. Not sure if I flush from beer

Also interesting , I was just reading this forum and my mum and brother saw the title of the thread from behind me. They both said they always go red when they drink, especially red wine.My mother especially said she goes so red from drinking that she feels embarassed of it, my brother said he only gets red sometimes. They think its crazy that Im scared of this at all, and they also think it seems very common for people to go red from drinking and would never have looked into it at all because they know so many people who go red when drinking, so in Ireland at least it is a common thing for white people to blush from alcohol…maybe its because we have such incredibly pale almost translucent skin…? I dont know