Determinants of Ethanol and Acetaldehyde Metabolism in Chronic Alcoholics

Julián Panés, Joan Caballería, Raimón Guitart, Albert Parés, Xavier Soler, Miguel Rodamilans, Miguel Navasa, Xavier Parés, Jaurne Bosch, Joan Rodés

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We have studied the factors determining the rate of ethanol and acetaldehyde metabolism in a group of 25 alcoholics with varying degrees of liver lesion (from normal liver to cirrhosis) and in six nonalcoholic cirrhotics. In alcoholics the ethanol metabolic rate was related to hepatic function, estimated either by the aminopyrine breath test (r= 0.70, p < 0.001) or the indocyanine green clearance (r= 0.76, p < 0.01), and was independent of the activity of hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase and hepatic blood flow. In nonalcoholic cirrhotics blood acetaldehyde was always below the detection limit (0.5 μM), but elevated levels were found in 14 out of the 25 alcoholics. Alcoholics with elevated blood acetaldehyde showed a significantly higher ethanol metabolic rate than alcoholics with undetectable acetaldehyde (120 ± 17 mg/kg/hr vs 104 ± 11 mg/kg/hr, p < 0.02), but no differences were observed in the activities of alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases. Peak blood acetaldehyde levels were directly related to the ethanol metabolic rate (r= 0.48, p < 0.02), but not to activities of hepatic alcohol or aldehyde dehydrogenases. These results indicate that in chronic alcoholics the main determinant of the ethanol metabolic rate is hepatic function, while the rise of blood acetaldehyde is mainly dependent on the ethanol metabolic rate. Alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase activities do not seem to be rate‐limiting factors in the oxidation of ethanol or acetaldehyde. Copyright © 1993, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-53
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1993


  • Acetaldehyde
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase.
  • Ethanol
  • Hepatic Function


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