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The Tipsy Gene – Do you have it?

Posted on | October 28, 2010 | No Comments

Does 1 glass tip you over the edge?

Does 1 glass tip you over the edge?

When it comes to drinking alcohol – have you noticed that some are better at it than others?  And I don’t mean frequency of drinking – I’m talking about the fact that some people don’t seem to get drunk whilst others have a few sips and are incapacitated! A recent study has found an enzyme in the brain that reacts differently to alcohol that could offer us the answer why.

When alcohol is consumed most is broken down in the liver, however even though we know little about how the brain reacts to alcohol, it’s been found that some is metabolized by an enzyme in the brain

CYP2E1 is a gene already known to play a role in alcohol metabolism and now also appears to impact how the brain responds to alcohol.  It’s reported that nearly 10-20% of people hold a variant of this gene that decreases they’re ability to stay sober.  The researchers referred to this as the ‘tipsy gene’.  Those with the tipsy gene felt the effects of alcohol much faster than others.

The research was conducted on 200 participants. They took a look at siblings who had parents who were alcoholics but were not actually alcoholics themselves.  They gave them an alcoholic drink of approximately 3 standard drinks over an eight-minute period. They were then monitored over three hours for breath alcohol level, body sway, and how drunk or sleepy they felt. The findings were compared against gene test results leading them to discover these findings.

Use in every day life:  Used in a positive way – the discovery of this gene modification could provide protection against Alcoholism as those that react badly to alcohol are less likely to abuse alcohol.

Importantly, much more research needs to be conducted and analysed as little is known about brain function and alcohol – also – Alcoholism is a complex condition that is affected my environmental, social and genetic influences.  This is however, a step closer to understanding alcohol metabolism and answering the question about why some get much drunker than others!

Study: University of North Carolina.  Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen.  Due for publication Jan 2011: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research


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