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Health Risks of Alcohol & Facial Flushing
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For 10 years I have heard that X vitamin or Y remedy would lessen my extreme Asian glow.

Rebecca R, 29 - Orinda, CA
For 10 years I have heard that X vitamin or Y remedy would lessen my Asian glow...
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Health Risks of Alcohol & Facial Flushing

When drinking, alcohol metabolism causes a buildup of a compound called acetaldehyde, which is 30 times as toxic as alcohol and is a known carcinogen that causes facial flushing.

Individuals that flush have an enzyme deficiency that causes their body to not process alcohol the way it should. This causes an enormous accumulation of acetaldehyde. This accumulation and the symptoms it causes, are known as Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR). AFR is caused by a genetic mutation.

Among other things, acetaldehyde causes inflammation and the skin to flush red, which is the most noticeable symptom of AFR. Alcohol Flush Reaction has been called many things: “Asian Flush”, “blushing”, “Asian glow” maybe even others like “alcohol tan”, and causes social anxiety and lowered confidence when drinking. In addition to the cosmetic effects, Alcohol Flush Reaction can cause dizziness, nausea, headache, increased heart rate and body temperature, and intensified hangover symptoms.

While intensified in those that experience an alcohol red face, any drinker may feel nausea and dizziness, even after just one drink. Acetaldehyde is responsible for these negative physical symptoms as well as hangover.

Flushing while drinking (acetaldehyde exposure) puts individuals at a higher risk of:

Gastric and esophageal cancer

Studies demonstrate that upper digestive tract cancer risk is greatly increased in people that experience facial blushing. Moderate drinkers that flush are still at over twice the risk of esophageal cancer as heavy drinkers that do not flush. One study shows that 35% of the patients flushed, but accounted for 69% of the esophageal cancer cases. This is due to increased acetaldehyde exposure. The “Asian Flush” cancer correlation has been very well researched around the globe.

Liver cirrhosis and failure

Studies show that there is a 60% higher risk of alcoholic cirrhosis in moderate drinkers that have facial flushing when compared to those that do not.

Alzheimer’s disease

Individuals that flush demonstrate a higher chance of getting the degenerative brain disease Alzheimer’s. Studies show that 48% of Alzheimer’s patients flushed whereas only 37% flushed in the control group without Alzheimer’s.

NBC News recently published an article about alcohol flush reaction. This article also helps to describe that a red face from drinking is not caused by an allergy but is the result of a mutation in acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2.

Medical journal and publication sources:

Ames, Bruce, et al. High-dose vitamin therapy stimulates variant enzymes with decreased coenzyme binding affinity (increased Km): relevance to genetic disease and polymorphisms. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION. Volume 75, Issue 4.

Brooks, PJ. THE ROLE OF ACETALDEHYDE-DNA ADDUCTS IN ALCOHOL MEDIATED CARCINOGENESIS. Volume 34, Issue 8. 2010.

Brooks PJ, Enoch MA, Goldman D, Li TK, Yokoyama A. The alcohol flushing response: an unrecognized risk factor for esophageal cancer from alcohol consumption. PLoS Med 2009, Volume 6, Issue 50.

Chao YC, Liou SR, Chung YY, Tang HS, Hsu CT, Li TK, et al. Polymorphism of alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase genes and alcoholic cirrhosis in Chinese patients. Hepatology 1994;19:360–6.

Farres, Jaume, Wang, Xinping, et al. Effects of Changing Glutamate487 to Lysine in Rat and Human Liver Mitochondrial Aldehyde Dehydrogena. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Volume 269, Issue 19. 1994.

Kamino K, Nagasaka K, Imagawa M, et al. Deficiency in mito-chondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase increases the risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the Japanese population. Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Community. Volume 273. 2000.

Oze, Isao, et al. Comparison between self-reported facial flushing after alcohol consumption and ALDH2 Glu504Lys polymorphism for risk of upper aerodigestive tract cancer in a Japanese population. Volume 101, Issue 8. 2010.

Xiao, Qing. The Mutation in the Mitochondrial Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH2) Gene Responsible for Alcohol-induced Flushing Increases Turnover of the Enzyme Tetramers in a Dominant Fashion. Journal of Clinical Investigation. Volume 98, Issue 9. 1996.

Yokoyama A, et al. Alcohol and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Polymorphisms and a New Strategy for Prevention and Screening for Cancer in the Upper Aerodigestive Tract in East Asians. Keio Journal of Medicine. Volume 59, Issue 4. 2010.

Yu, Peter et al. Cutaneous Vasomotor Sensitivity to Ethanol and Acetaldehyde: Subtypes of Alcohol-Flushing Response Among Chinese. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Volume 14, Issue 6. 2006.