JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Alcohol, protein nutrition, and liver injury

C S Lieber
Current Concepts in Nutrition 1983, 12: 49-71
6342974
Ther are several main mechanisms that allow us to understand a number of the hepatic and metabolic effects of ethanol. Ethanol is oxidized in the liver to two products (hydrogen and acetaldehyde), to which many of the effects of ethanol can be attributed. The hydrogen generated alters the redox state, and though this effect is attenuated after chronic ethanol consumption, it may still be sufficient to explain alterations in lipid metabolism, possibly increased collagen deposition, and, under special circumstances, depression of protein synthesis. Acetaldehyde impairs microtubules, decreases protein secretion, and causes protein retention and ballooning of the hepatocyte. Acetaldehyde exerts toxicity also with regard to other key cellular functions, particularly in the mitochondria, and it may promote peroxidation of the cellular membranes. It is noteworthy that after chronic consumption of ethanol, there is increased acetaldehyde, in part because of decreased disposition in the mitochondria and partly because of induction of an alternative pathway of ethanol metabolism, namely the microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system. Indeed, this MEOS increases in activity after chronic ethanol consumption, with cross induction and acceleration of the metabolism of other drugs and increased lipoprotein production with hyperlipemia. There is also increased microsomal activation of hepatotoxic compounds (including drugs and possibly vitamin A). Fibrosis and cirrhosis can develop despite an associated adequate diet and even in the absence of alcoholic hepatitis. They are preceded by myofibroblasts and fibroblast proliferation. What eventually causes the increased number of myofibroblasts and promotes fibrosis is unclear, nor do we know the relative role of hepatocytes or mesenchymal cells in the process of fibroplasis. Possibly selective roles in this process of specific nutritional factors remain to be elucidated.

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