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Asian flush, explained

The science of why alcohol makes so many Asians turn red

Joss Fong is a founding member of the Vox video team and a producer focused on science and tech. She holds a master's degree in science, health, and environmental reporting from NYU.

Around 540 million Asians in the world — that's 8 percent of the global population — have a genetic mutation that leads to a flushing reaction to alcohol. I am one of those people.

Watch us transform before your eyes like some kind of ill-conceived X-Men.

Not all Asians suffer from this unfortunate condition. The best studies estimate that it affects around 36 percent of Northeast Asians (primarily Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans).

For those with two copies of the relevant genetic mutation — one from Mom, one from Dad — drinking is simply unbearable. You won't see these homozygotes flushing at the bar because they won't touch the stuff. However, most of us have one normal copy of the gene, which means that we can power through if we so choose. But there's a risk: Facial reddening is only one small piece of what alcohol does to those with Asian flush. Check out the video above to find out more.

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