Thursday, September 02, 2010

Amerindians, Hispanics, and Alcoholism

According to this study, two polymorphic alleles considered candidates for alcohol-related diseases are distributed very differently in an unmixed, indigenous Mexican group versus a sample of Mexican mestizos. This helps explain the high rate of alcoholism among Amerindians. 

Here are death rates (per 100,000) from alcoholic liver disease (CDC):

Amerindian 15.4
Hispanic 4.4
White 4.5
Black 3.4
Asian 1.0

Notice how, compared to whites, Hispanics do not have a problem with alcoholism despite having some Amerindian ancestry.

I'll keep a lookout for more examples (and correct me if I'm wrong) but it looks like American Hispanics overall are not a comparatively unhealthy group of people. 


  1. I think I read somewhere that American Hispanics have a similar life expectancy to American non-Hispanic whites, which kind of surprised me.

  2. Anonymous11:49 AM

    I'm not sure if I'm correct on this statistically, but shouldn't the proper measure be of non-violent deaths? That may change things.

  3. The white element in mestizos is Southern European. SEs have higher alcohol tolerance than the ancestors of most white Americans.

  4. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Age adjusted?

    Hispanics tend to be much younger than whites, not old enough yet to have liver disease.

    This is just an thumb-and-eye-estimate, but I detect quite a few of the illegal-constrcution worker/landscaper types seem to drink alot

  5. "Age adjusted?"

    Good point.

    Ages 55-64

    Amerindian 42.2

    Hispanic (white--most are classified this) 21.3

    Black 12.5

    White 11.1

    Asian 2.8

  6. I think there are a couple of details missing here. First of all American Indians are not the same people as those Indios living south of the Rio Grande. Secondly, the problem with American Indians is the inability to digest sugar. Indians have the highest rate if diabetes, if I'm not mistaken. We used to be the highest in lactose intolerance as well. Alcohol, which is mostly sugar, or very high content, adds to the mix. I say the American Indian problem is deeply related to sugar. Also, I would advise not to use terms like "Native American", "Amerindian," or other such liberal neologisms. American Indian is the historical and correct term, if we're going to refer to Indians with names other than their national names.

  7. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Bad Eagle says:

    Alcohol, which is mostly sugar, or very high content, adds to the mix.

    Let's be precise. Alcohol is not mostly sugar, it is completely alcohol, eg, methyl-alcohol, ethyl-alcohol, etc.

    Alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, have lots of things in them, and they would be, I imagine (except for 100+ proof spirits) mostly water. However, I do accept that many of them have lots of sugars.

    Most indigenous peoples have problems with metabolising alcohol and typically have lower ability to produce aldehyde dehydrogenase etc ...

    See also this: Alcohol Metabilism.

  8. This would be a good candidate for rapid natural selection since 1519: Spanish genes for dealing with alcohol. Mexican Indians had tequila for several hundred years before the Conquest, but Spaniards had had wine for a really long time.

    Imagine a conquistador has two sons with an Indian woman. One inherits his father's allele that evolved for dealing with alcohol, the other inherits his mother's allele that evolved in an environment without much alcohol. All else being equal, which brother would be expected to have more surviving grandchildren in a colonial era when winemaking was growing rapidly?

  9. if the alcoholism protective gene is of dominant effect it can explain the discrepancy too.


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