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Scientists Find 'Hangover Gene'

This mutation is no party, Japanese team say

THURSDAY, July 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Many hangover sufferers looking for someone or something to blame can now point the finger at their own genes, according to a new study.

Mutations in a specific gene inactivate a key enzyme and slow the elimination of acetaldehyde -- the first product of alcohol metabolism -- from the body, say Japanese researchers reporting in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Their study of 326 Japanese female and male workers found that those with a mutated, inactive form of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) -- an enzyme that plays an important role in the elimination of alcohol-induced acetaldehyde -- are more susceptible to hangovers and facial flushing when they drink. This mutated form of ALDH is called ALDH2.

People with the inactive form of ALDH2 needed to drink "significantly less" than those with active ALDH2 to trigger hangover, study corresponding author Masako Yokoyama, of the Mitsukoshi Health and Welfare Foundation, said in a prepared statement.

The researcher added that men who said they had suffered more than three hangovers in the past year were more likely to report alcohol-related facial flushing and an elevated volume in their blood corpuscles, "both of which are indicators of high acetaldehyde exposure due to drinking in persons with inactive ALDH2."

The findings point to the need for further research into the damage caused by alcohol-induced acetaldehyde, the Japanese team said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers advice on how to prevent and treat hangovers.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, July 14, 2005
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