Ethanol and lipids

C S Lieber, M Savolainen
Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 1984, 8 (4): 409-23
The interaction of ethanol with lipid metabolism is complex. When ethanol is present, it becomes a preferred fuel for the liver and displaces fat as a source of energy. This favors fat accumulation. In addition, the altered redox state secondary to the oxidation of ethanol promotes lipogenesis, for instance, through enhanced formation of acylglycerols. The depressed oxidative capacity of the mitochondria injured by chronic alcohol feeding also contributes to the development of the fatty liver. Accumulation of fat acts as a stimulus for the secretion of lipoproteins and the development of hyperlipemia. Hyperlipemia may also be facilitated by the proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum after chronic ethanol consumption and the associated increase of enzymes involved in the production of triglycerides and lipoproteins. The propensity to enhance lipoprotein secretion is offset, at least in part, by a decrease in microtubules and an impairment of the secretory capacity of the liver. The level of blood lipids depends on the balance between these two opposite changes: At the early stage of alcohol abuse, when liver damage is still small, hyperlipemia will prevail, whereas the opposite occurs with severe liver injury. When hyperlipemia occurs, it involves all lipoprotein classes, including high density lipoprotein (HDL). The latter have been suggested to be responsible for the lower incidence of coronary complications of moderate drinkers compared to teetotalers, but in fact, the subtype of HDL involved (HDL3) differs from the HDL2 subtype associated with protection.

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