Effects of genetic polymorphisms in alcohol-metabolizing enzymes on alcohol hypersensitivity and alcohol-related health problems in orientals

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The alcohol hypersensitivity common among Orientals is mainly due to genetic polymorphism in the low Km aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene. The relation of theALDH2 genotype to alcohol sensitivity and drinking behavior was investigated in a Japanese occupational population. The frequency of alcohol-associated symptoms generally increased in the order of the typical homozygote, heterozygote, and atypical homozygote. Both drinking frequency and amounts of alcohol consumption were also significantly affected by the polymorphism. In contrast, polymorphism in the alcohol dehydrogenase β-subunit appears to contribute only partly to alcohol sensitivity and not to drinking behavior. Questionnaires and the alcohol patch test are useful for screening alcohol sensitivity. The effects of the genotypes of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes on alcohol-associated health problems should be further investigated using approporiate analytical epidemiological methods.