Veni, vidi, whisky

by Sandra Juncu

A Scot, an Asian, a Native – American and an Eskimo walk into a bar, they drink the same amount of alcohol. Who will get more drunk?

The adult version of a candy store

What sounds like a funny riddle is actually an important question that US scientists answered this Tuesday: it’s in the genes. University of North Carolina researchers at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine found a new gene, CYP2E1, which instructs the body to produce an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.  1 in 5 people will tolerate alcohol less than others, leading them to be more sensitive to substance abuse or alcoholism.

Study author Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen commented on the results: “It turns out that a specific version of CYP2E1 makes people more sensitive to alcohol.” He also added that even if some questions were answered, and an important contribution to understanding the body’s response to alcohol has been made, the battle against alcoholism is still a long way from finished: “But alcoholism is a very complex disease and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons.”

The Day After Stats

Scotland ranks 8th in the world and in top place in the EU for alcohol consumption per head of population, according to Alcohol Focus Scotland and EU public health statistics. This costs the tax payers an estimate of 3,5 billions per year. As one in every 20 deaths and 1 in 10 accident & emergency admissions is attributed to alcohol, the numbers are painting a sinister picture and raising a serious alarm sign about the fact that the real bad effects of alcohol are a lot more painful than a bad hangover.

Born Different

Alcohol tolerance is determined by our genes and our genes are determined by our ethnic background, this means that alcohol sensitivity varies according to race. As an earlier study showed, European and North Americans have a higher threshold for alcohol compared to Asians, Eskimos and Native Americans. So in the case of all of them meeting in a pub, it’s the Scots who will have to take the others home.