Background: Associations of ALDH2 and ADH1B genotypes with alcohol use have been evaluated largely using case–control studies, which typically focus on adult samples and dichotomous diagnostic outcomes. Relatively fewer studies have evaluated ALDH2 and ADH1B in relation to continuous drinking outcomes or at different developmental stages. This study examined additive and interactive effects of ALDH2 and ADH1B genotypes on drinking behavior in a mixed-gender sample of Asian young adults, focusing on continuous phenotypes (e.g., heavy episodic and hazardous drinking, alcohol sensitivity, drinking consequences) whose expression is expected to precede the onset of alcohol use disorders.
Methods: The sample included 182 Chinese- and Korean-American young adults ages 18 years and older (mean age = 20 years). Effects of ALDH2, ADH1B and ethnicity were estimated using generalized linear modeling.
Results: The ALDH2*2 allele predicted lower reported rates of alcohol use and drinking consequences as well as greater reported sensitivity to alcohol. There were significant ethnic group differences in drinking outcomes, such that Korean ethnicity predicted higher drinking rates and lower alcohol sensitivity. ADH1B status was not significantly related to drinking outcomes.
Conclusions: Ethnicity and ALDH2 status, but not ADH1B status, consistently explained significant variance in alcohol consumption in this relatively young sample. Results extend previous work by showing an association of ALDH2 genotype with drinking consequences. Findings are discussed in the context of possible developmental and population differences in the influence of ALDH2 and ADH1B variations on alcohol-related phenotypes.