About alcohol metabolism

Joined Jan 11, 2002
In the "Symposium" thread, the conversation has come round to drunkness and alcohol absorption, so I have thought to post something about this topic...obviously I don't want to do a treatise (there are many excellent books and papers about that!) but only to report some curiosities.

Alcohol is absorbed unaltered from the gastrointestinal tract, about 25 percent from the stomach and the rest from the upper small intestine. The absorption is extremely quick-alcohol may be detected in the blood within 5 mins after ingestion, and the maximum concentration is reached in 30 to 90 mins. The foods that slower more the absorption are milk and fatty foods; being habituated to alcoholics fastens the absorption, and the blood level rises more and more quickly in drinkers than in abstainers.

After having entered the various organs, in concentrations that bear a constant relationship to the blood level, alcohol is eliminated mainly being converted into metabolites by oxidation, while less than 10 percent is excreted unchanged in the urine, breath and sweat.
As for the time required for elimination, it depends mainly on the whole amount of alcohol ingested. Once the absorption is ended, alcohol is oxidized at a constant rate, independently from its concentration in the blood: about 150 milligrams alcohol (that is about 1 oz 90-proof whiskey) per kilogram of body weight per hour.

This rate is always the same and there are very few factors that can increase it (one seems to be the repeated ingestion of alcohol, both in normal and alcoholic subjects) being useful in the treatment of alcohol intoxication. The administration of liquids and diuretics can be helpful to increase the urinary elimination, but, as I said, it's responsible only of the elimination of a small percentage of the alcohol absorbed.

As for the side effects of alcohol, they are mainly due directly to it and not to its metabolites like Acetaldehyde and acetate.
One of the effects that seem to be due to acetaldehyde is flushing, and a difference in aldehyde metabolism has been found between "flushers" and "non-flushers". In example, Chinese and generally orientals are "flushers" and someone postulated that this is the reason why only few Chinese are alcohol addicts-but this can hardly make sense as also North American Indians are flushers...

If I have been boring, please forgive me...otherwise I can post more about drunkedness and alcohol tolerance!

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Thanks a lot Pongi!

That was very usefull.

Last night I was checking something in Atheneus' Deipnosophists and there, he quotes Hippocrates opinion that when you drink sweet wine it's difficult to get drunk.
After a long talk on drunkness , all the participants in the Symposium agreed that it's healthier to drink water anyway :lol:
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