top of page


Health Implications

There are several health risks associated with Asian Glow (alcohol flush reaction). The build up of acetaldehyde, which is caused by the genetic condition that is indicated by Asian Glow, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, esophageal cancer, and other dangerous conditions and cancers.  


The increased risk of cancers is due to the inability to properly break down acetaldehyde, caused by the inherited deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase (an enzyme called ALDH2). There is evidence that ALDH2-deficient individuals are at a much larger risk of esophageal cancer compared to individuals without the deficiency if they drink moderate amounts of alcohol. 


As mentioned in an article published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal and found on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH) site, case control studies in Japan and Taiwan consistently demonstrated a strong link between the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and alcohol consumption in low activity ALDH-2 heterozygous individuals, and a large proportion (58-69%) of the excessive risk for esophageal cancer can be attributed to drinking. According to the National Cancer Institute, esophageal cancer is treatable but rarely curable, and has a 5% to 30% five-year survival rate in patients eligible to be treated. Smoking also increases the risk of esophageal cancer in individuals with the deficiency because it dramatically increases acetaldehyde levels in saliva, and people with the deficient enzyme have limited ability to get rid of salivary acetaldehyde. 


A study conducted by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine demonstrated that the enzyme mutation increases cell damage in Alzheimer’s patients. Senior author of the study, Daria Mochly-Rosen, says the data suggests “that alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease-prone genes may put humans at greater risk of Alzheimer’s onset and progression” (Lee). 


Other health implications associated with the reaction, a symptom of alcohol intolerance, include nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) or heart palpitations, low blood pressure (hypotension), throbbing headache, fatigue, other hangover-like symptoms, stuffy nose, diarrhea, and worsening asthma.

bottom of page