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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Gene 'prevents heavy drinking'
drink
A gene could contribute to your risk of heavy drinking
Cultural differences that discourage alcohol misuse among Jews may be backed up by a gene that has much the same effect, say scientists.

Statistics suggest that Jews have fewer problems with alcohol than Caucasians in general.

Deborah Hasim, from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, looked at the genetic makeup of 68 Israeli Jews aged between 22 and 65.

They were also quizzed on their alcohol consumption.

They were looking for a variation of a gene called ADH2 which appears to have a role in the way the body metabolises alcohol.

Previous studies have suggested that one in five Jews have this gene variation - higher than in a Caucasian population.

The Columbia research found that their participants with the gene variation were far less likely to have suffered alcohol dependence.

Russian effect

However, when the test group were split up by their origin, a different picture emerged.

The protective effect of the gene variation was stronger among the two more established groups of Israeli Jews - the Ashkenazis - whose origin was from Europe and pre-1989 Russia, and the Sephardics, from the Middle East and North Africa.

Among more recent immigrants from the Soviet Union, the protective effect was far less strong.

They generally had a history of far heavier drinking.

Dr Hasin said: "The study's findings suggest that the recent Russian immigrants' previous exposure to the heavy-drinking environment of Russian culture overcame the protective effects of the gene.

"This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that this genetic variation has a protective effect against alcoholism among Jewish groups."

Japanese gene

However, she said there was little idea as to why the gene should have an effect on alcohol dependence.

Other races are also thought to have genes which have an impact on their ability to consume alcohol.

The best known is the gene which controls the ability to metabolise alcohol.

As many as 50% of Chinese and Japanese lack the gene - this causes obvious symptoms when they drink like facial flushing, dizziness and nausea.

The research was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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05 Apr 01 | Health
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