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Thursday, January 21, 2010

An End to the Flush?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 3:36 PM

Move over penicillin, there could be a cure for alcohol intolerance, or alcohol flush. Researchers have discovered a compound that repairs a defective enzyme, which normally is responsible for metabolizing alcohol.

An estimated one billion people have the faulty enzyme, and when they drink beer or wine, they experience facial flushing as well as other possible symptoms including nausea, vomiting and rapid heartbeat. The intolerance is also known colloquially as the “Asian Flush,” because 40 percent of people of East Asian descent suffer from this reaction.

Repairing the enzyme through a molecule, known as Alda-1, won’t only allow people to drink, it could also help save lives. Initially, researchers were investigating how moderate red wine drinking may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The scientists isolated an enzyme, ALDH2, which can possibly lessen heart tissue damage during a heart attack. Furthering the study, the researchers then found that Alda-1enhances ALDH2, and fixed the defective alcohol enzyme. It’s also thought that Alda-1 could assist with hangovers.

But if you suffer from this reaction, don’t get your hopes up too high. Alda-1 is still in the testing stage, and as the lead researcher, molecular biology professor Thomas D. Hurley, told Wine Spectator, “It's a double-edged sword. We could correct the defect but then that increases the risk of other health problems if people are not drinking moderately. If they drink moderately, it's great, but must be tempered with the fact that some people don't."

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