Why Alcohol Affects People Differently: The Role of Enzymes and Body Composition
DigestionFood & Diet

Why Alcohol Affects People Differently: The Role of Enzymes and Body Composition

Discover why alcohol affects people differently in our latest blog post. Learn about the roles of enzymes like alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, the impact of gender, ethnicity, and body composition on alcohol metabolism, and how these factors contribute to varying alcohol tolerance levels. Stay informed and drink responsibly!

Published February 26, 2024

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the editor(s), author(s) nor publisher(s) take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Have you ever wondered why, when you're out with friends, everyone seems to react differently to the same amount of alcohol?

It's a common observation, and there's a fascinating scientific reason behind it.

It's All About Enzymes: Alcohol Dehydrogenase and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase

The way our bodies process alcohol is primarily due to two key enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase.

These enzymes are like the body's bouncers, managing how alcohol is handled inside us.

Alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde.

Then, aldehyde dehydrogenase takes over, changing acetaldehyde into acetic acid, which our bodies can easily get rid of.

Men vs. Women: A Difference in Enzyme Levels

When men and women drink the same amount of alcohol, women often feel its effects more intensely.

The reason lies in our biology.

Generally, men have higher levels of these alcohol-processing enzymes, enabling them to break down and clear alcohol from their systems faster than women.†

Ethnicity Matters Too

Our genetic backgrounds also play a significant role.

For example, many people of Asian or Native American descent have lower levels of these crucial enzymes.†

This can lead to more intense feelings of intoxication.†

Notably, some people of Asian heritage might have difficulty producing effective aldehyde dehydrogenase, leading to what's often called the "Asian Flush" or "Asian Glow."

This reaction includes symptoms like intense flushing and discomfort after drinking alcohol.

Body Composition: Muscle vs. Fat

Another factor in how we experience alcohol is our body composition.

Since fat doesn't absorb alcohol, individuals with a higher muscle mass can often drink more without feeling the effects as quickly.

On the flip side, as we age, we tend to lose muscle and gain fat, making older adults more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

Tolerance and Liver Adaptation

While these enzymes are crucial in processing alcohol, they aren't the whole story.

Our liver adapts to repeated alcohol use by producing more of these enzymes, preparing for what it expects to be more alcohol coming its way.

This leads to a quicker metabolism of alcohol, which can affect tolerance levels over time.†

So, the next time you're out enjoying a social drink, remember that how alcohol affects you and your friends is a complex interplay of biology and lifestyle.

Understanding these factors can help you make more informed choices about your drinking habits. Stay informed, stay safe, and enjoy responsibly! 🍹🧬