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Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:41 by Ananth in response to bargle

We went out for our pal Rachelle's birthday on Saturday - karaoke and everything, it was a lot of fun! Yuko rarely drinks because of how she responded to alcohol once in college - she skipped all the fun parts and went straight to bargling. After it happened again over the weekend (despite having plenty of water and a full stomach) I decided to do some research.

Asian alcohol intolerance is real (to varying degrees for different people) and is caused by a gene mutation. It affects only part of the Asian population. The liver produces two enzymes to break down alcohol - the first enzyme converts the alcohol to acetaldehyde, and second enzyme converts acetaldehyde to acetic acid (which can eventually be broken down into carbon dioxide and water). People with the gene mutation have decreased activity of the second enzyme, which means that they experience a buildup of acetaldehyde - toxic in large quantities. The flushing that comes with drinking is a sign that the body is trying to expel the buildup of toxin through sweating (vomiting in extreme cases). Further reading below (it was tough to find good sources but I think these worked out):

I'm curious to hear from any of you who know more or have had similar experiences, especially any of you whose experience has been more to the extreme. 

CMYcat t-shirts are almost sold out! There are a couple of Mens' Large and XL tees left. But not to worry! We put in an order for more yesterday, and while we're at it we're bringing back the Hokusai tees! I'll post about it ahead of restocking - it'll be some time in the next few weeks. 

That's all from us! We'll be playing a bit of catch-up over the next couple of days, but I'll drop in and respond to comments when I can. Til Thursday!


I have about 8 shots before

Comment by Cabernet (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:59

I have about 8 shots before I'm even a little bit tipsy and 100% ashun!

Guilty! Not even half a beer

Comment by l-article (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:01

Guilty! Not even half a beer goes through me and I'm red as a beet. Skip the fun stuff. check. Go straight to sleep and bargle. My nurse friend has been bugging me to look into this..Thanks Johnny Wander for enabling me to click on them references and learn! :D


Comment by Al Paradise (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:06

Poor Yuko. :[

I love vodka.

Not Asian?

Comment by Emily (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:11

Both my mum and me have this reaction to alchohol, and neither of us are of Asian decent.
My dad is Scottish, but he doesn't drink so I have nothing to test against, but my mums family are of middle eastern decent...
She goes pink, gets giggly and then bargles. I go pink, pee like there's no tomorrow, then bargle, sometimes for 2 days after wards. And that's on half a glass of wine.

Cheap Date

Comment by maldar (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:14

I'm a cheap date, two drinks or so depending on different factors and I'm well buzzed. The trick is maintaining it without overdoing it by mistake.

BTW, I'm white, 5'9" and 300lbs+ currently. I just rarely drink, which is why I figure it takes so little.

Native Americans generally

Comment by Vanessa (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:18

Native Americans generally have half the alcohol tolerance of people of European ancestry. Or white people have twice the alcohol tolerance of most Native Americans. Whichever way you want to look at it. This is the cause of a lot of debate of DUI enforcement and how they should be handled. If you live near the Navajo reservation in NM some of their laws are separate from the US government. Last I checked your overall DUI count for what you earned on the reservation was held separate from DUIs achieved outside of reservation borders. The cops in the area have been working hard for a number of years to get the counts merged, but no luck last I checked. This means you could have 5 DUIs in the books on the Navajo reservation, 5 on the books outside of it, and still not do any jail time.

Source: I used to live in the area.


Comment by Miya (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:36

I'm full Japanese (5'4", 100 lbs) and I have a really high tolerance. I drink soju and vodka drinks for the most part and I never turn red. The boyfriend is also full Japanese (5'11", 165lbs?) and has a high tolerance as well.

My mother, my aunt, and my uncle by marriage are also powerhouses when it comes to alcohol but my father was a mess after one drink, it seems. I never saw him drink so I wouldn't know.

I don't know about percentages but I've met Asians who can hold their liquor like pros as well as those who go stop sign red after half a fruity drink. Luck of the draw?


Comment by Friendlysoviet (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:39

Irish / Italian / German / French

When I do drink, I usually polish off half a liter of vodka or whiskey.

I have never gotten a hang over.

I hate you

Comment by Vanessa (not verified) Sat, 04/23/2011 - 02:28

and am also envious.

There's a Native American

Comment by EiceBleu (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:42

There's a Native American version too. Not sure if it works exactly the same, even if the result is--believe me, I know!

I also can't metabolize fructose very well. I understand that has similar pathways through the liver.

Native American's share a

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:13

Native American's share a genetic history with Asian races as the are both decedents of the Mongoloid (as apposed to Caucasoid or Negroid)

Ahaha, I love Yuko's

Comment by skourja (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:48

Ahaha, I love Yuko's paneling in this one <3

I once drank too much (AKA

Comment by VLyandra (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:56

I once drank too much (AKA two drinks) and was sick for a WEEK. Asian Alcohol Syndrome fail.

Totally True!

Comment by kgrier (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:11

In my metabolism class we learned that and my professor also said that Asians also tend to have an overactive 1st enzyme in that process too. Cool stuff.

Good to know! I'll have to

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:15

Good to know! I'll have to investigate further. 

Haha, meanwhile I am Irish

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:22

Haha, meanwhile I am Irish and can drink quite a bit...luckily I can usually tell when I'm starting to go from "tons of fun" to "I want to die". I've had some several-days-long hangovers, though! Never fun...

This explains so much.

Comment by GreenSimplicity (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:27

I'm full Chinese, and for my 21th birthday, my dad got me a shot of 40-proof brandy. I spent the rest of the night feeling like my face was suffering from severe sunburn, with a horrible pounding headache and being extremely irritated at everyone and everything.

It hasn't been much better since; even a mouthful of diluted alcohol is enough to set off a massive headache and flushing within minutes. And what's worse, I'm asthmatic, so the increased heart rate makes breathing hard, too! At least I know right away if someone's trying to sneak something into my drink, I guess.

Oddly enough, I've never experienced being "drunk" (I don't think) and I don't recall ever getting very nauseated. Still, definitely feel Yuko's pain there!

There was a Korean exchange

Comment by Aube (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:28

There was a Korean exchange student at my last University that had the same thing, She would have a few sips, maybe half a glass of wine or beer (never would touch hard liquor). Even after consuming a lot of water and eating heavy foods she would still "bargle". We tried various drinks including hard cider but the result was the same.
We later found out that her father had the same deal. Did you find anything in your searching about it being hereditary?

It's totally hereditary, for

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:17

It's totally hereditary, for sure. 

This is the best comic you

Comment by Awesome Music Videos (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:42

This is the best comic you guys have ever done. Thank you so much. I love it.

1/8 Mayan descent can do that too

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:43

I can't believe this hadn't dawned on me until now! It makes perfect sense that my only bout of drinking (consuming six shots of vodka) would result in all of these symptoms, no matter how much I thought it was the grenadine's fault.

Sure, it was a slow and pleasurable progression to my bargling, but that's what it came to, and that means I will never ingest such a vile drug again!

Since Everyone Is Sharing Their Drinking Stories

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:54

I am a Big Viking Ancestry Chick and I have a ridiculous tolerance, and am also That Guy who doesn't get hangovers, ever. Even after the five-tequila and then 75cl of vodka night. I impressed my Irish flatmates on my first night of drinking in my life, at least. OTOH, I get flushed and tipsy after about a pint of cider, and will stay that way all night, never actually progressing to full-on drunk.

All the Chinese kids in my exchange program were beastly with the drink, as well.

a friend of mine...

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 19:59

...decided to study oncology and viticulture at Davis. Only after she graduated did she find out that swallowing a sip of wine will turn her red and will eventually cause her to vomit.

She still works at a winery tho. :)

I had a friend in college

Comment by Russspruce (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 20:12

For the most part, he always took it easy when it came to drinking. But this one time, he took a shot of what was apparently absinthe. Now for a person who does have a tolerance, it can screw you up quite a bit. For him, he was out of it for the rest of the night.


Comment by vodkabeforenoon (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 20:25

I never knew there was such a thing...

I guess that's why.

Comment by ceylon (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 20:49

I've seen this twice before.
Once, I got a Mike's Hard Lemonade with two of my college classmates who were from Hong Kong, but... it made one pretty miserable. She spent much of the rest of the trip with her back to a wall and her head between her knees, the poor girl.
Another friend of mine doesn't do more than half a bottle of beer before she turns pretty red, and she is Korean. Thankfully, there hasn't been much bargling, though.

older bro

Comment by Wasmo (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:13

It's pretty easy to tell when my older brother drinks. He gets red starting from his neck to the top of his forehead. I got the norwegian drinking genes though(we're half and half).

I'm 1/4 Native American, 3/4

Comment by Jen (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:25

I'm 1/4 Native American, 3/4 Caucasian and have drunk alcohol a total of 4 times in my life. After not even half a glass of wine I am sick as a dog and missing the table kind of drunk. There's a very good reason I don't drink!


Comment by Analoren (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 22:05

My family on my mother's side has always had issues metabolizing alcohol, though some of us better than others. I have a fairly low tolerance and am lucky enough to get away with cheek redness and slightly higher body temp, while my cousin suffers more of an allergy leading to super high heart rate, red skin, blotches, difficulty breathing, dizziness etc.

I've only had one bargle

Comment by Ziaheart (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 22:55

I've only had one bargle event. I went to a party, I had dinner beforehand, had some chips and a lot of water, and a wine-cooler. And then I threw up in the night. The thing had maybe half the alcohol content of a beer. Other times when I've had fruity cocktails and whatnot I'd be fine. Last time I drank I had like, a jug full of soju (Korean variant of sake) cocktail and the thing was strong as whatever and I was fine. The mind, it boggles.

Alcohol flush reaction and esophageal cancer!

Comment by engmcmuffin (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 23:43

I'm a grad student studying public health and I've doing one of my term papers on the Asian glow and esophageal cancer! Those who glow and have acetaldehyde build up, either because its produced more quickly or not broken down enough have a much much higher risk of developing esophageal cancer and gastric cancer. Be careful Yuko!!

Also, taking an antacid does help with the asian glow, however since you process the alcohol better/faster you will get drunk sooner. and probably won't stop the bargling. Feel better!

White guy here, I seem to

Comment by Abeo (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 23:49

White guy here, I seem to have an above average tolerance for alcohol, though I've only been drunk once.

What I do seem to have is some kind of hyper-sensitivity to alcohol's taste and odour. It is to the point where drinking alcohol is unpleasant enough that the thrill of intoxication is not worth it.

It only gets worse the more I drink too, which seems to be the opposite of what most people find(I'm always told to just keep drinking and I wont mind the taste, not true).

Female with extremely high

Comment by Nicole (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 08:20

Female with extremely high alcohol tolerance here, and I have the same problem. I have to do shots--I cannot sip alcohol; the taste will make me throw up. I do a shot down the throat and chase it with strongly-flavoured candy.

The first time I ever drank (and because of my taste sensitivity I've only done it a couple times) I shocked my friends by being a born expert at taking a shot. I explained that the idea of the alcohol touching my tongue necessitated speedy learning. And then I subjected myself to the painful experience of shot after shot since it took an entire pint of straight vodka to get me anywhere near tipsy.

Once, my mom brought home from fried apples from a restaurant. I knew nothing about the apples or the place, but I could not eat those fried apples and swore they tasted like liquor. I was shocked, later, to find out that they're cooked in Jack Daniels. NO ONE in my family could taste it--I guess it wasn't entirely cooked off?--but I couldn't even eat them. =/

The smell of alcohol-based perfume will make me gag too but it's drinking alcohol that's the worst.

That's odd... normally the

Comment by Anonymouse (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 14:52

That's odd... normally the alcohol is burned off in the cooking process.

But hypersensitivity to certain flavors isn't unheard of. There are some folks who absolutely hate celery because it has an extremely potent flavor to them, overpowering anything else in the dish.

But I loves me a bloody mary, so I guess I don't fall into either category ;)

I assume it was mostly

Comment by Nicole (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 09:36

I assume it was mostly cooked off, just maybe not completely. I use cooking wine all the time... they must have been in a hurry in the kitchen, maybe :D

Also: weird you mention that. Celery also makes me vomit. But I can eat cilantro by the handful--I eat it right out of the bag--and I know that's the big Sensitive Taste Test.

Yeah, my family made fun of

Comment by Ash (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 11:42

Yeah, my family made fun of me for a while because they drink any excues they get, but I hated the taste of alchohol. I've found that I actually like wine, probably because it has lots of other smells and flavors going on. I hate beer because it tastes like gross seltzer water to me. I hate liquor because to me I might as well be drinking gasoline. I can't stand the smell or taste.

1/4 Chinese here...

Comment by Ron (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 00:33

I've never gotten a hangover, but instead I'll get little tiny blisters on on the sides of my fingers if I consume too much alcohol or if I go out drinking like two nights in a row. They're barely noticeable, but itch like crazy, so I always end up popping them with a needle or any sharp object that happens to be handy, and they always disappear after that. I guess it's better than bargling.

finger blisters

Comment by Chris (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 00:40

I get those too sometimes! But I'm under age, so I don't drink. Don't know how I get it...

Finger Blisters

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 00:10

That actually sounds more like something that happens with dry skin then with alcohol. I get blisters like that too on the insides of my fingers, and they ALWAYS get worse in winter, when my skin is dry because of the cold. I find lotions like Eucerin, which helps treat eczema, work well. Japanese family can

Comment by rufe (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:03 Japanese family can also drink like no other.

Especially for men of my grandparents' generation I think it was basically necessary to have a high alcohol tolerance in order to do business. I also have a surprisingly high alcohol tolerance considering how rarely I drink. I have heard of people who have mysteriously weak alcohol tolerance/It "remains" aka get a horrible hangover though.

As for my Chinese friends many of them exhibit this "glow", but not a low tolerance. I think for Asians who have the missing enzyme it's not necessarily about tolerance but rather if the byproducts are disposed of properly.


Comment by Joel (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:11

Chinese here. I didn't used to turn red until later but now I turn red really quickly. I've recently figured out my drinking pace. If I'm going to a drinking party and don't want to look terrible, I'll take a shot of something at least an hour before. After the "Asian flush" fades I can pretty much keep drinking as much as I want. Never had a hangover.

Definitely would say that it

Comment by Eli (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:33

Definitely would say that it prevents one from drinking in college. I know it affects a third of East asians and, well, both of my parents are from Taiwan. I've elected not to drink during my undergraduate years for other reasons (the bar culture here at the university is pretty annoying and stale), but the hangovers aren't great. I can drink probably one beer and still be fine. But any hard liquor is not a good idea for me. I usually get incredibly bloodshot in the eyes and flushed in the face, I get really nauseous (which I HATE), and one time yarked over the rug I used my freshman year of college. Because I hang out primarily with non-drinkers now, I don't drink and I'm pretty happy about it.

Atypical Finn

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:40

Hi, Finn here with a gapless national ancestry and even alcoholics on both sides of the family. I don't know who the joke is on but I'm alcohol intolerant.

I'm pale by default so any flush I might get doesn't really show. What I do get is a fever-like sensation, a quick "downturn" (the buzz quickly becomes stupor, nausea) and persisting after-effects; hangovers last two days. During that time I have altered senses, irregular appetite and feel either sick (like I have the flu) or utterly lethargic. I once smoked (cigarettes) while drunk and blacked out for the first time in my life.

How much can I/do I drink? Any amount triggers the reaction, but two pints safe, four pints max. I can pile cocktails on that but it's a crapshoot if I'll just vomit it all out right after. Most strong stuff makes me vomit instantly, even by their smell.

I still drink because it's "not that bad", but only on Fridays, and only when I'm not going anywhere that weekend. I've found that multivitamins, especially the B group, and magnesium help damage control.


Comment by nekoinabox (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 03:29

I've personally never had a problem with alcohol, which apparently comes from my grandmother on my father's side.

Others aren't so lucky. And one friend of mine actually started exhibiting severe anaphylactic symptoms the first time we introduced him to rum.

The more you know!

I'm only 1/4 Japanese but I

Comment by MissKacey (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 04:32

I'm only 1/4 Japanese but I don't respond well to alcohol either. I get drunk really easy (one glass of wine) and drinking any more than that can either a) make me puke or 2) cause intense stomach pains. My Mom who is 1/2 Japanese is totally fine putting a bottle of wine away! I guess it just really depends!

Poor Yuko!

Comment by Kristy (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 06:17

That alcohol intolerance must suck royally. But the other extreme is just as bad, let me assure you. I have the exact opposite problem to your intolerance. I drink and I drink but my metabolism is so high that it breaks down the alcohol before I get more than a buzz going. I drank an entire bottle of tequila once and I STILL passed the breathalyzer that my friend needed to start his car (I had to drive his drunk ass home).

Am I right in saying that drinking loses most of the fun when you can't participate with the others in your group (or at least keep pace)? -sigh-

It sucks when food/drink

Comment by Mary Sue (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 06:28

It sucks when food/drink makes a person sick. Hope Yuko is feeling better.

Does any other wheat or barley bother her? Hopefully it is not also a reaction to Gluten? If not - then it sounds like you've hit the nail on the head. Do you also have to worry about food stuffs that are marinated in alcohol?

Food intolerance is frustrating. :( Get better Yuko!

She's never had a lot of

Comment by Ananth Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:05

She's never had a lot of beer at once, but it doesn't seem to bother her nearly as much! It's not gluten for sure. 

Well, that's good at least!

Comment by Mary Sue (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 20:52

Well, that's good at least! Beer seems to be a more common marinade (er... in the south at least) than most other alcoholic beverages, so she hopefully won't have to worry about much unintentional food poisoning! Glad it's not a Gluten allergy - they're survivable, sure, but that sucks too!

On a side note: gene

Comment by Mary Sue (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 20:57

On a side note: gene mutation - does that mean bargle is Yuko's mutant power? Maybe it'll evolve into something... more fun. Like force beams from the eyeballs.