Yonsei Med J.  2017 Jul;58(4):689-696. 10.3349/ymj.2017.58.4.689.

Alcohol Consumption, Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 2 Gene Polymorphisms, and Cardiovascular Health in Korea

  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, BK21PLUS Program in Embodiment: Health-Society Interaction, Graduate School, Korea University, Seoul, Korea. mjshin@korea.ac.kr
  • 2MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, School of Social & Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


Alcohol consumption is a serious health issue in Korea in terms of the amount consumed and the behavior related to its consumption. Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) is a key enzyme in alcohol metabolism that degrades acetaldehyde to nontoxic acetic acid. The enzyme is coded by the ALDH2 gene, which is commonly polymorphic in East Asian populations. A point mutation in the ALDH2 gene (the rs671 allele) yields an inactive form of ALDH2 that causes acetaldehyde accumulation in the body after alcohol consumption, thereby inhibiting normal alcohol metabolism. Individuals who are homozygous for polymorphism in ALDH2 tend to refrain from drinking alcohol, decreasing their chances of developing alcoholism and exposure to the associated risks. Mendelian randomization (MR) studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption predicted by ALDH2 genotype is causally related to cardiovascular risks. Moreover, recent MR studies suggest that the ALDH2 variant has mechanistic effects on some disease outcomes or mortality through increased blood levels of acetaldehyde, showing differences therein between heterozygotes (ALDH2*2*2) and homozygotes (ALDH2*1*2) in those who consume alcohol. Accordingly, consideration of ALDH2 genotype in alcohol prevention programs is warranted. In conclusion, strategies that incorporate genetic information and provide an evidential basis from which to help people make informed decisions on alcohol consumption are urgently required.


Alcohol; aldehyde dehydrogenase 2; Mendelian randomization analysis; guidelines

MeSH Terms

Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology/*genetics
Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial/*genetics
Cardiovascular Diseases/*enzymology/*genetics
*Genetic Predisposition to Disease
Mendelian Randomization Analysis
*Polymorphism, Genetic
Republic of Korea
Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial
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