The Absorption, Distribution, and Metabolism of Ethanol and Its Effects on Nutrition and Hepatic Function

  • Ting-Kai Li


The factors that govern blood and tissue concentrations of ethanol are the rate of absorption from the site of administration, the distribution space for ethanol in the body, and the rate of its elimination. Ethanol is neither accumulated to any extent by specific organs nor preferentially bound to cellular components. It is eliminated principally by oxidative metabolism in the liver. Consequently, after absorption and distribution in tissue and extracellular water, the primary determinant of the duration and extent of its pharmacologic action is the rate of its oxidation by the liver. For this reason, the enzymatic pathways of ethanol metabolism and their control by genetic and environmental factors have been important areas for detailed study. Furthermore, the oxidation of ethanol can produce profound abnormalities in the metabolic functions of the liver as well as nutrient imbalance. Knowledge of these interrelationships is fundamental to the understanding and treatment of many of the medical consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, some of which may be life-threatening. These aspects of the biochemistry and pharmacology of ethanol are the principal focus of this chapter.


Chronic Ethanol Ethanol Oxidation Ethanol Metabolism Blood Ethanol Concentration NADH Ratio 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ting-Kai Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and BiochemistryIndiana University School of Medicine, and Veterans Administration Medical CenterIndianapolisUSA

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