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Asian Flushing: Genetic and Sociocultural Factors of Alcoholism Among East Asians

Lee, Haeok PhD, RN, FAAN; Kim, Sun S. PhD, RN; You, Kwang Soo PhD, RN; Park, Wanju PhD, RN, NPc; Yang, Jin Hyang PhD, RN; Kim, Minjin MSN, RN; Hayman, Laura L. PhD, RN, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000062
Features

Alcohol use can lead to a cascade of problems such as increased chances of risky behavior and negative health consequences, including alcoholic liver disease and upper gastric and liver cancer. Ethanol is metabolized mainly by 2 major enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Genetic variations of genes encoding the 2 enzymes are very common among East Asians but relatively rare for most other populations. Facial flushing and other physical discomforts after alcohol drinking triggered by accumulation of acetaldehyde through defective genes for ADH and ALDH have been reported. Approximately 40% of East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) show facial flushing after drinking alcohol, known as “Asian flush,” which is characterized by adverse reactions on alcohol drinking in individuals possessing the fasting metabolizing alleles for ADH, ADH1B*2, and ADH1C*1, and the null allele for ALDH and ALDH2*2. Alcoholism is determined not only by the genetic deficiency but also by behaviors that involve complex interactions between genetic and sociocultural factors. The purpose of this article was to provide nurses with the most current information about genetic and sociocultural influences on alcoholism and alcohol-related health problems specifically for East Asians and implications of this knowledge to nursing practice. The physiological phenomenon of genes and genetics in relation to alcohol metabolism in this special population is emphasized.

Haeok Lee, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

Sun S. Kim, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

Kwang Soo You, PhD, RN, is Professor, School of Nursing, ChounBuk National University, Jeonju, Republic of Korea.

Wanju Park, PhD, RN, NPc, is Associate Professor, College of Nursing and Research Institute of Nursing Science, Kyungbuk National University, Daegu, Republic of Korea.

Jin Hyang Yang, PhD, RN, is Professor, Nursing Department, School of Medicine, Inje University, Busan, Republic of Korea.

Minjin Kim, MSN, RN, is PhD Student, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

Laura L. Hayman, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence to: Haeok Lee, PhD, RN, FAAN, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125 (haeok.lee@umb.edu).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received July 25, 2012

Accepted December 11, 2012

© 2014 by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc.