Rare Gene Discourages Alcohol Dependence Among Jews:
from Center for the Advancement of Health
Study: Jews Have Fewer Problems With Alcohol Dependence
A new study suggests that genes, not religion, may help explain why Jews generally have fewer problems with alcohol than Caucasians in general.
The study findings, which appear in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, also suggest that the protective effects of this gene may be undermined by a culture that encourages drinking.
The gene, ADH2*2 is a rare variation of ADH2, which produces a more active form of alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in alcohol metabolism. However, explains lead author Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, 'the exact reason why ADH2*2 tends to discourage heavier drinking isn't known.'
'Recently, reports have shown a relatively high prevalence [approximately 20 percent] of ADH2*2 in Jewish samples ... suggesting that ADH2*2 is one of the factors explaining the low rates of alcoholism in this group,' Hasin notes. Earlier research has shown that differences in religious practice and level of religiosity cannot account for these low rates.
Indeed, recent investigations have demonstrated 'significant relationships between ADH2*2 and alcohol use ... in all Jewish groups studied,' Hasin reports. Those with the variant gene have been seen to drink less frequently, consume less alcohol overall or have more unpleasant reactions to alcohol. Until the present study, however, the relationship between ADH2*2 and level of dependence on alcohol was not explored.
Hasin and her colleagues recruited 75 Israeli Jews aged 22-65. Trained interviewers employed a widely used questionnaire to assess each participant's current, past and lifetime level of alcohol dependence. Sixty-eight of the participants provided genetic material to test for the presence of ADH2*2. "