A man and a woman outside drinking wine and the woman is also eating a slice of pizza.

Why does alcohol affect different people differently?

If you’ve drunk alcohol, you’ve probably drunk alcohol with a group of people. And if you have, you’ve probably also noticed that alcohol affects different people differently. Why does this occur?

A image of enzymes under a microscope.

THE ANSWER

Enzymes

The answer is enzymes - 2 in particular - alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase.

Alcohol dehydrogenase enables the body to convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is then converted into acetic acid by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase before being released from the body.

A woman and man laughing while having drinks.

THE SPECIFICS

Gender & Alcohol

When men and women drink the same amount, women tend to experience more significant effects. The reason? Men have more of these enzymes in general, which makes them able to process and remove alcohol from the body faster.

Two men and two woman drinking beer around a table.

THE SPECIFICS

Ethnicity & Alcohol

Similarly, some ethnicities have lower levels of these enzymes. In particular, people of Asian or Native American descent will experience higher feelings of intoxication. People of Asian descent can have issues producing acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, instead generating a nonfunctional enzyme. People with this gene have intense flushing and unpleasant reactions to drinking alcohol - sometimes referred to as the Asian Flush or Asian Glow.

These cytokines are likely the culprit behind many cognitive effects of alcohol, such as memory impairment and mood changes.

Five women sitting around a pool, celebrating.

THE SPECIFICS

Body Composition & Alcohol

Apart from these enzymes, your body composition also plays a role. Fat does not absorb alcohol, so people with more muscle mass can drink more without noticing the effects of alcohol as drastically.

As people age, they tend to have less muscle and more fat. So, older people may feel the effects of alcohol more strongly.

A top down photo of three red solo cups, toasting to the new year.

THE SPECIFICS

Alcohol Tolerance

And while alcohol tolerance cannot be wholly attributed to these enzymes, they do play a role. The liver responds to repeated alcohol use by producing more of these enzymes, expecting more alcohol, leading to more rapid alcohol metabolism.

These cytokines are likely the culprit behind many cognitive effects of alcohol, such as memory impairment and mood changes.

A person pouring a scoop of electrolytes into a glass of water.

Natural ingredients & alcohol consumption:

7 Natural Ingredients to Help You Process Alcohol

So… what can you do now that you are armed with all this knowledge?

While there aren’t any magical solutions for curing a hangover (come on, science!) there are some known natural ingredients that can help:

8 Natural Products Containing These Ingredients: