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Alcohol Res Health. 2006;29(4):245-54.

Overview: how is alcohol metabolized by the body?

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  • 1Division of Metabolism and Health Effects, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Alcohol is eliminated from the body by various metabolic mechanisms. The primary enzymes involved are aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), cytochrome P450 (CYP2E1), and catalase. Variations in the genes for these enzymes have been found to influence alcohol consumption, alcohol-related tissue damage, and alcohol dependence. The consequences of alcohol metabolism include oxygen deficits (i.e., hypoxia) in the liver; interaction between alcohol metabolism byproducts and other cell components, resulting in the formation of harmful compounds (i.e., adducts); formation of highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (i.e., reactive oxygen species [ROS]) that can damage other cell components; changes in the ratio of NADH to NAD+ (i.e., the cell's redox state); tissue damage; fetal damage; impairment of other metabolic processes; cancer; and medication interactions. Several issues related to alcohol metabolism require further research.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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