Evolution May Make it Harder for Humans to Hold Their Liquor

By Laura Geggel

Humans are still evolving… but before toasting to that, know this: Some of the genetic changes may make hangovers worse, a new study finds.

So far, only certain populations have genetic adaptations that make it hard for them to process alcohol, but there’s no telling how fast it will spread to other populations, the researchers found.

As for people who already have the adaptation, they may have “reduced tolerance to alcohol in today’s environment,” study senior investigator Benjamin Voight, an associate professor of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told Live Science in an email.

The researchers did the study so they could learn which regions of the human genome have adapted — that is, evolved — over the past tens of thousands of years, Voight said. To investigate, they looked at publicly available data from the 1,000 Genomes Project, a large sequencing venture that’s collected the genomes of more than 2,500 individuals of diverse ancestries — representing 26 different populations from four continents, Voight said.

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