Plasma carnitine concentrations after chronic alcohol intoxication.

Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online) 2013 May 31;67:548-52. Epub 2013 May 31.

Department of Biochemistry, Radioimmunology and Experimental Medicine the Children's Memorial Health Institute, Warsaw, Poland.

Background: Carnitine transports fatty acids from the cytoplasm to the mitochondrial matrix, where the fatty acids are oxidized. Chronic alcohol consumption reduces the concentration of carnitine and interferes with oxidative processes occurring in the cell.

Aim: The assessment of carnitine concentrations in plasma of chronically intoxicated alcohol dependent persons in a 49-day abstinence period.

Material/methods: The study included 31 patients (5 women and 27 men) aged from 26 to 60 years (44.6 ± 8.9) and 32 healthy subjects (15 women and 17 men) aged 22-60 years (39.8 ± 9.4). The patients' alcohol dependence ranged from 2 to 30 years (13.6 ± 7.5). Examined subjects consumed 75-700 g of ethanol/day (226.9 ± 151.5). Plasma concentrations of free and total carnitine were measured three times: at the first (T0), 30th (T30) and 49th (T49) day of hospital detoxification. Free (FC) and total (TC) carnitine were determined by the spectrophotometric method. Plasma acylcarnitine (AC) concentration was calculated from the difference between TC and FC; then the AC/FC ratio was calculated. To determine statistically significant differences for related variables, Student's t-test was used.

Results: At T0, alcoholics had significantly lower concentration of FC and TC (p < 0.05) in plasma, as compared to the control group. In comparison to controls, at T30, plasma TC and FC (p < 0.01) as well as AC (p < 0.001) were reduced. The lowest concentration of TC, FC and AC (p < 0.001)was found at T49. The ratio of AC/FC at T0 had a tendency to be higher in alcoholics than in the control group (p = 0.05), whereas at T49 it was significantly lower in alcoholics as compared to the control subjects (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Chronic alcohol intoxication causes a plasma deficiency of carnitine. Forty-nine days of abstinence showed a significant decrease in the concentration of TC, FC and AC. Further research is necessary to clarify whether a low level of plasma carnitine after chronic alcohol intoxication is caused by the uptake of blood carnitine by tissues such as liver or muscles. In alcoholics the supplementation of carnitine is recommended in the case of a low level of plasma carnitine.

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May 2013
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