March 2, 2014

The red flag of facial flushing

A new study published in the journal” Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research” shows that flushing red in the face may be more than an indicator of embarrassment, and in fact a red flag.

The study focused on 1,763 men while drinking and found that the “flushers” had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

The “flushers” comprised 527 of the men studied. A total of 948 of the subjects drank alcohol, but did not experience facial flushing. The remaining 288 didn't drink at all. Researchers found that when flushers drank more than four alcoholic beverages per week, their risk of high blood pressure was more than double that of non-flushers.

Non-flushers' risk of developing high blood pressure also increased when they consumed more than eight alcoholic drinks on a weekly basis.

Researchers adjusted for age, body mass index, exercise and smoking status, and still the link held.

The medical community has long known that alcohol consumption raises the risk of high blood pressure, but the new information suggests that those who experience flushing after drinking may be at risk with lower consumption levels.

While the study was only done on men, some women flush after drinking, too.

Why do some people flush and others don't? The phenomenon is linked to the ALDH2 gene, which controls a person's ability to break down acetaldehyde, the first metabolite of alcohol. Flushers break down the substance less efficiently, and it builds up in the body.

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