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Jews protected from alcohol by gene

23 September 2002
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 176

Researchers have come up with a genetic reason why Jewish people typically have fewer alcohol problems than non-Jews.

The new study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, shows that a single gene mutation carried by more than a fifth of all Jews seems to protect them against alcoholism. The mutation is also fairly common in Asian people, but relatively rare in white Europeans.

The genetic mutation, called ADH2*2, is a variation of a gene (ADH2) that helps control how alcohol is broken down in the bloodstream. The scientists are not sure how ADH2*2 protects against alcoholism, but they believe that it may increase levels of the chemical acetaldehyde, a by-product of the metabolism of alcohol. High levels of the chemical cause headaches, nausea and flushing.

The researchers studied the relationship between the gene mutation and alcohol consumption among 68 Israeli Jews aged between 22 and 65. They found that the people with the gene mutation were far less likely to have suffered alcohol dependence, were likely to consume less alcohol, or to suffer worse side-effects if they did.

Gene 'prevents heavy drinking'
BBC News Online |  16 September 2002
Gene 'protects Jews against the evils of drink'
The Daily Telegraph |  17 September 2002
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An international team of scientists has found that the genes that help the body break down alcohol also influence a person's risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat and oesophagus. The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, looked at six variants of the alcohol dehydrogenase...
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