Or any alcoholic beverage it would appear. Some would even go so far as to say that it's a natural talent they have... as if their good looks weren't enough to make the rest of the world green with envy! But have you ever wondered why some people can have several alcoholic beverages without you noticing much of a change in them, while others give it away by their rosy cheeks and looking like they are about to throw up? Then keep reading!
Effects of alcohol
People respond differently to alcohol and experience the, more or less pleasant, side effects in their own way. The effects can roughly be divided in two. The first is during the intake of alcohol, where most people feel an a positive change in their mood. They also imagine people to be better looking than they really are, which can lead to feelings of regret in the morning (yes it happens to the best of us).
The second is when the body is working to get the alcohol out of the system again, this phase is less pleasant for most and known as a “hangover”. Combine a hangover with a shame of waking up next to someone who you wouldn't normally consider good looking, then you have expereinced a "shameover" – and nobody enjoys one of those.
Alcohol in Denmark
It is not a secret that the culture of drinking alcohol is different in each place of the world. In the case of Danes, the great heir of mighty vikings, these appear as beer and hygge lovers.
According to Denmark.dk, the official website of Denmark, beer has been part of the Danish culture for more then 5000 years. Maybe that is why the Danes are known as great beer lovers.
The World Health Association (WHO) reports that 45 per cent of Danes prefer beer, while 39 per cent, wine; and 16 per cent, spirits. Overall the consumption of alcohol in Denmark, according to WHO, is around 14 liters per capita per year, placing them at number 26 in the world for alcohol consumption in liters per capita. Some way before Sweden (placed 50th) and Norway (placed 65th).
So I think we can establish that Danes in general drink a lot (no surprise there!). But might there be a genetic reason for this?
The genetics of alcohol metabolism
Scientists have succeeded in clarifying this phenomenon on a molecular level. Namely, the reason for this is the defect of the gene which codes for the enzyme ALDH2 (Okay, we're getting to the pretty high level stuff...but bear with me). This enzyme is responsible for the breakdown of acetaldehyde – an intermediate product in ethanol metabolism, which is even more toxic than ethanol itself. People with a defect of the ALDH2 gene, accumulate acetaldehyde because it can not be removed from cells fast enough, making them over sensitiv towards alcohol.
Also enzyme ADH1 is important for alcohol metabolism as it is responsible for the first stage of the metabolism of ethanol into acetaldehyde. Researchers have discovered that a mutation can occur also in the genes that encode enzyme ADH1 and this influences greatly the efficiency of ethanol conversion. These mutations are actually not as defining as the one in the ALDH2 gene, but they still greatly determine alcohol sensitivity.
A second study found that people who feel drunk after relatively few drinks, may carry a different version of the CYP2E1 gene than others who react less strongly to alcohol. The liver breaks down most of the alcohol people drink but some is metabolized in the brain by an enzyme coded for by CYP2E1.
Alcohol sensitivity in Danes
At AthGene we tested over 500 users from Denmark, and among other genes, looked at the CYP2E1 and ALDH2 genes. *Drum roll please* An astonishing 97.2 percent of people tested had a low sensitivity to alcohol and only 2.78 with a medium or high sensitivity.
So what do these results mean?
Yes the Danes drink a lot of alcohol, more than the average European. But they also have a low sensitivity towards alcohol, making the effects of increased alcohol consumption less noticeable to them compared to others.
Now you know never to have a drinking competition against a Dane again, at least not if you don't have the right genes.... you have been warned!
Disclaimer: AthGene do not encourage excessive drinking of alcohol, no matter what your genes say. Please drink responsibly... or you may experience the effects of a shameover...and nobody wants that!