Is Your Alcohol Tolerance Level Genetic?

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When you get drunk easily, you may possess a gene called CYP2E1 which was recently discovered by scientists and which could provide codes of instruction for making an enzyme that can break down alcohol. The good thing about having this gene is that, because of your low alcohol tolerance level, you are more likely to quit drinking earlier and are less likely to become an alcoholic.

About 10-20% of the population has this gene according to researchers.

Says Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen, the senior study author from the University of North Carolina: “We have found a gene that protects against alcoholism, and on top of that, has a very strong effect. 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.”

More on the CYP2E1 gene from the Telegraph:

CYP2E1’s effect on sobriety is probably due to the fact that it is not active in the liver, but the brain.
It generates destructive molecules called free radicals, which can damage sensitive structures such as brain cells.

“It turns out that a specific version of CYP2E1 makes people more sensitive to alcohol, and we are now exploring whether it is because it generates more of these free radicals,” said Prof Wilhelmsen.

The study investigated the genetics of 237 college student siblings who had one alcohol-dependent parent but were not alcoholics themselves. They were given a mixture of alcohol and soft drinks that was equivalent to about three average alcoholic drinks. At regular intervals they were then asked whether they felt drunk, sober, sleepy or awake.