Get red-faced after drinking? You’re an Asian Flusher

You’ve probably experienced this.

You and your friends are enjoying a chill drinking session at the bar. Not long into the night, you notice that someone’s face has turned red – so red that you can see the scarlet flush even in the dim light.

Some might say that the flush is an indication of good ‘qi’ (blood circulation) or that the effects will dissipate with a couple more drinks. On both counts, #fakenews. Instead, this occurring redness is one of the tell-tale signs of Alcohol Flush Syndrome, or what is better known in the region as Asian Flush.

In fact, 1 in 3 Singaporeans are Asian Flushers.

Yet, a study conducted by four final-year students from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information found that 60% do not know of the scientific explanation behind the condition or how it increases one’s risk of developing negative health consequences.

If you belong to the 60%, here are some things you should know. For Asian Flushers, the body is less efficient in breaking down acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing agent converted from alcohol. When the body detects acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, the vessels dilate, creating the flush associated with drinking.

But that’s not all.

This accumulation of acetaldehyde means that a drinker with Asian Flush is at higher risk of getting certain cancers and diseases, such as peptic ulcers and hypertension. According to Dr Ong Lizhen, Associate Consultant in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at National University Hospital, an Asian Flusher who consumes two beers a day is 10 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer, as compared to a non-Asian Flusher who drinks the same amount.

Despite this, young Asian Flushers continue to overestimate their drinking limits, with nearly half of them defining excessive drinking as seven alcoholic beverages and above. According to Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) drinking guidelines, women should consume a maximum of one alcoholic beverage, and a maximum of two for men in a day. And while 64% of Asian Flushers intend to keep to the guidelines, only 26% succeed in keeping to them.

So, are you an Asian Flusher?

If you are, then it’s best you stop drinking. But we know you young folks #cantstopwontstop – so at least keep it slow and within the one to two drinks. After all, the night is always a little better with a sober mind, more truffle fries and the safe knowledge that you aren’t going to be the one who got #rekt.

Written by RED AF

RED AF is a health communications campaign that aims to foster a healthier and safer drinking culture in Singapore by raising the awareness of high-risk drinking among people with Asian Flush. Led by four students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, the initiative also seeks to reform social norms surrounding drinking, particularly among local university students.