Don’t Drink and Durian? And certainly don’t drive

We’ve had long discussions about this over durian desserts before. Is it the truth or is it a myth that you can’t have durians with alcohol? Too many stories floating around about some guy who had a durian feast with whiskey and proceeded to keel over, turn blue and expire from this world. My doctor friends volunteered that they had never come across it personally but they thought that it was probably due to serious protein overload combined with some sort of poor digestive process caused by the durian consumed.

Well, imagine my delight when I finally found a scientific publication to back this up. Trust that it would be Japanese and Philippino scientists too. John Maninang and Hiroshi Gemma from the University of Tsukuba in Japan linked durian‘s high sulphur content with the impairment of alcohol breakdown. The durian extract they tested inhibited aldehyde dehydrogenase activity by up to 70%. So, it is conceivable that if you haven’t got much in the way of alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes in the first place and consumed both durian and whiskey (which has a high alcohol content) simultaneously, that the durians could be inhibiting your enzymes which are supposed to break down the alcohol before it gets to levels of toxicity that your body can’t tolerate*.

How did the researchers get inspired to look into these experiments? They thought that it possible that the link would be the same as a condition known as Disulfiram-Ethanol Reaction (DER). This is where the Sulphur interferes with your liver alcohol metabolism, and the researchers thought that Durian probably contained a high enough sulphur content to cause the same symptoms.

Certainly something to bear in mind, but its not often that durian is served with any alcohol at all. The worst combination would probably be a fermented Durian Alcohol or durian flavored cocktail… eeugh..

*Note: Some asians lack this enzyme and so experience alcohol toxicity at lower doses.

6 thoughts on “Don’t Drink and Durian? And certainly don’t drive

  1. Nice informative post! I was warned many times, most notably in Bali, about alcohol and durian not mixing. I never tried mixing the two for that reason. However, I did try coffee and durian together (which I don’t recommend!) only to be warned later on that it is a bad combination as well. I didn’t feel any adverse effects at the time, so I’m not sure the validity of the claim. Then again, it could be just those rare cases when taken in excess when people get in trouble, like last spring when a Thai supposedly died after ingesting around 8 kgs of durian!! Moderation is definitely key 🙂

    • Hi Dan!
      Coffee and Durian? Interesting mix, I think it could taste quite nice even though both flavors are strong. I recently had Vietnamese coffee and I can imagine the pairing might be a nice result. I wonder if why they say its bad is because of the caffeine or some other substance in the coffee. If its the caffeine then an option would be decaf!
      The 8Kg durian consumption is just nuts, I suppose that would be 8 Kgs which include the shells right…. if it was net weight….. yikes..!

  2. In Thailand there are such a traditional belief like that .
    But as a doctor I had many patient that eat mixture of durian and alcohol and they are just fine! (They came to hospital because of drunk and have wound , not effect of durian)
    and many study in the past don’t found any mortality linked to these mixture

    however durian can cause thermogenesis from fat metabolism , consume with alcohol is not a wise thing

  3. Hai.. interersting info..
    wondering if we eat durian then drink carbonate beverage will have symptoms like alcohol?
    I heard an issue a man got heart attack when he eat durian and drink C*ca C*la


    • Hi there!

      Hmm, am not sure how much durian he ate and how much Coke he drank! But both together produce gas in the gut so perhaps this might have aggravated an existing heart condition. I don’t think it necessarily gives people a heart attack in that combination though… unless the dose is wayyyy to high! I think if people have a heart condition, they shouldn’t be drinking coke anyway (but that’s my opinion).

      I doubt that eating durians and drinking coke for any normal person will make them feel drunk like alcohol… just bloated!

      Stinky Spiky Always!

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