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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #214335

Title: Effects of Pregnancy and Nutritional Status on Alcohol Metabolism


Submitted to: Alcohol Research and Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2007
Publication Date: 7/15/2007
Citation: Shankar, K., Ronis, M.J., Badger, T.M. 2007. Effects of pregnancy and nutritional status on alcohol metabolism. Alcohol Research and Health. 30(1):55-59.

Interpretive Summary: In this study, we addressed the role of nutritional status and diet during pregnancy on metabolism of alcohol. We found that pregnancy itself will induce metabolism of alcohol, and this increased alcohol metabolism decreases the amount of alcohol that reaches the fetus. This in turn reduces adverse effects on fetal development. Furthermore, maintaining a high plane of nutrition during pregnancy allowed maximal metabolism of alcohol and maximal protection to the fetus. On the other hand, decreased nutritional intake resulted in higher alcohol levels reaching the fetus and increased chances for damage. Thus, both the physiological condition of pregnancy and diet can have important effects on alcohol metabolism and on protection to fetal development.

Technical Abstract: Metabolism of alcohol (i.e., ethanol) is regulated by genetic and environmental factors as well as physiologic state. For a given alcohol intake, the rate of alcohol clearance, which ultimately determines tissue ethanol concentrations, may be the most significant risk factor for many of the detrimental effects of alcohol. Faster ethanol clearance would help minimize target tissue concentrations, and in pregnant women, mitigate fetal alcohol exposure. Much remains to be known about the effects of the altered endocrine milieu of pregnancy on alcohol metabolism and clearance in the mother. Research has shown that among pregnant rats allowed unrestricted access to alcohol and those fed alcohol containing liquid diets under experimental conditions via a feeding tube (total enteral nutrition [TEN]), urine ethanol concentrations (and thus blood and tissue ethanol concentrations) are lower in pregnant rats compared with non-pregnant females given the same dose of ethanol. Maternal nutritional status also is an important determinant of fetal alcohol toxicity. Research using the TEN system has demonstrated that alcohol-induced fetal growth retardation is potentiated by undernutrition in part via impaired alcohol metabolism and clearance.