The effects of feeding a nutritionally adequate liquid diet containing 5% ethanol to rats over a four week period on intestinal lactase activity and the kinetics of jejunal galactose absorption in vivo have been determined. Both lactase activity and the maximum capacity for active, saturable galactose absorption (Jmax) were increased significantly after chronic ethanol ingestion. In contrast, uptake of the sugar via the phlorhizin-insensitive (passive) route was unaffected by ethanol. Our results imply the presence of an increased maturity of the enterocyte population on the villus surface in response to ethanol. The relevance of this work to uptake studies in alcoholics is briefly discussed.
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