This study looked at the possible association between alcohol abuse and free radical mediated oxidative injury by examining the presence of oxidative damage, as monitored by erythrocyte malonildialdehyde and plasma lipid hydroperoxides, in patients with liver cirrhosis and different lifetime daily alcohol intake. All patients with an alcohol intake above 100 g/day (ALC) showed concentrations of malonildialdehyde and lipid hydroperoxide on average four to fivefold higher than cirrhotic patients with alcohol intake below 100 g/day (NAC) or healthy controls. Further subgrouping of ALC patients showed that those with alcohol intake ranging between 100 and 200 g/day (ALC1) had malonildialdehyde and lipid hydroperoxide concentrations significantly lower than those with an intake higher than 200 g/day (ALC2). These differences were not related to the extent of liver injury or to the liver derangement as assessed by Child's classification. The increase in lipid peroxidation markers in ALC cirrhotic patients was associated with a decrease in, respectively, plasma alpha-tocopherol and erythrocyte glutathione concentrations. Significant differences were also seen between ALC1 and ALC2 groups in plasma alpha-tocopherol, but not in erythrocyte glutathione concentrations. The concentrations of alpha-tocopherol and glutathione in the blood of NAC patients were in contrast not substantially different from those of healthy controls. The close association between oxidative damage and alcohol abuse suggested that free radical intermediates produced during ethanol metabolism might be responsible for causing oxidative damage.
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