In what could be the biggest buzzkill scientific study of the year, two researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that humans might be developing a genetic “adverse physical response” to drinking. The result, the study states, could be that humans stop drinking altogether.
The study centers around how the body digests alcohol. A cluster of enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), primarily found in the liver, break down alcohol molecules. A lot goes into differences between each person’s ADH enzymes, but put simply, a person’s genes determine the quantity and activity of the enzymes. The gene that causes less efficient ADH is becoming more common in populations around the world. As the researchers’ thinking goes, the worse a body is at digesting alcohol, the more negative effects a person will experience and the more a person will avoid alcohol altogether.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution, based its findings on the 1,000 Genomes Project. The genetic data examined included 2,500 people from 20 different population groups on four continents. The population in East Asia was more likely to have the anti-alcohol gene, but it was universally present, and patterns suggest that presence will grow over time around the world. The study couldn’t say exactly why humans will evolve not to handle alcohol as well, only that the genetic data showed it was happening and from that fact, surmised that alcohol will be less a part of life in the future (though probably not in the 20-year time period that some scientists claim).