Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Natural Selection Protected Some East Asian Populations From Alcoholism, Study Suggests

Date:
April 3, 2008
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Changes in the environment in the last few thousand years may have protected some East Asians against alcoholism. Scientists have long known that many Asians carry variants of genes that help regulate alcohol metabolism. Some of those genetic variants can make people feel uncomfortable, sometimes even ill, when drinking small amounts of alcohol. As a result of the prevalence of this gene, many, but not all, communities in countries such as China, Japan and Korea have low rates of alcoholism.

Some change in the environment in many East Asian communities during the past few thousand years may have protected residents from becoming alcoholics, a new genetic analysis conducted by Yale School of Medicine researchers suggests.

Scientists have long known that many Asians carry variants of genes that help regulate alcohol metabolism. Some of those genetic variants can make people feel uncomfortable, sometimes even ill, when drinking small amounts of alcohol. As a result of the prevalence of this gene, many, but not all, communities in countries such as China, Japan and Korea have low rates of alcoholism.

The study is by Hui Li and others in the laboratory of Kenneth Kidd, professor of genetics, psychiatry and ecology & evolutionary biology.

Last year Kidd's team reported evidence that recent natural selection in East Asia had caused one particular variant of the alcohol-regulating gene to become common. In this new paper Li and others in Kidd's team analyzed this variant in the DNA of individuals in many different population groups in several more East Asian countries.

They uncovered evidence that the variant became widespread through natural selection in only some of those East Asian populations -- specifically, the Hmong- and Altaic-speaking groups. Those genetic clues, say the scientists, suggest that something was different in the environment of those populations and that the genetic difference assisted survival in that environment. The researchers have not yet identified that environmental difference and say the genetic change could be triggered by any number of factors, such as the emergence of some new parasite.

That these populations turn out to be less prone to the ravages of demon rum, says Kidd, "is just a serendipitous event'' of evolution. "What this finding does is highlight that something important in recent human history has affected the genetic composition of many East Asian populations," he notes.

Kidd's team was studying a variant of one of a set of related genes that code for alcohol dehydrogenases, enzymes that help in metabolism of alcohols, including ethanol. Variants of those enzymes have been known for many years to protect the individuals carrying them against alcoholism.

The particular gene studied, a variant of the ADH1B gene, is very common in some East Asian communities, as high as 90 percent in some areas. But he also noted that lower rates of alcoholism in many of the Asian communities may well be due to cultural as well as genetic causes.

"If a large part of the people got sick after they ate one particular food or drank a particular drink, you would not find many social situations where that food was served,'' Kidd said.

The article, Ethnic Related Selection for an ADH Class I Variant within East Asia, will be published April 2, in the journal PloS One.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Natural Selection Protected Some East Asian Populations From Alcoholism, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402071551.htm>.
Yale University. (2008, April 3). Natural Selection Protected Some East Asian Populations From Alcoholism, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402071551.htm
Yale University. "Natural Selection Protected Some East Asian Populations From Alcoholism, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402071551.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins