Monday, August 17, 2009

The Churchill gene

Some people rave about how some multiply-filtered vodka leaves no trace the next day; others swear they've seen and communed with their familiar as the the level of mezcal in the bottle dwindles. De gustibus, but all I used to know is that some people can drink, and some ought not.

Now, I think I know why; according to a piece by Phillip Hunter, a small percentage of white people have something weird going on in their genes. "According to a 2004 study carried out at the University of Colorado, around 15 per cent of Caucasians have a genetic variant, known as the G-variant, that makes ethanol behave more like an opioid drug, such as morphine, with a stronger than normal effect on mood and behavior. This variant seems randomly distributed among the population: it emerged through mutation, although the factors affecting its selection remain unknown since, like all genes, it does not operate in isolation."

Curious? As Hunter points out: "An exceptional few seemed to thrive on drink, leading to the idea of a "Churchill gene": where some have a genetic makeup allowing them to remain healthy and brilliant despite consumption that would kill others. Mark Twain endorsed this view saying: "My vices protect me but they would assassinate you!"

No doubt some real genes--especially those with a high expression of alcohol dehydrogenase and tolerance of alcohol breakdown products such as acetaldehyde, the "hangover" chemical--contribute to this theory. Yet until recently science has had little to say about alcohol and the creative process, confining itself to studies of damage, tolerance and addiction. Over the last few years, however, evidence has emerged that some have, if not a Churchill gene, then a creative cocktail gene."

Find the rest of the short piece here.

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