Zinc in alcohol metabolism

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi


Certain amount of alcohol can be metabolized every hour regardless of how much of alcohol a person consumes. Metabolism of alcohol is dependent on various factors including the liver size and body mass. Alcohol is metabolized in the body mainly by the liver. The brain, pancreas and stomach also metabolize alcohol.

In humans, the most common pathway for the metabolism of alcohol involves the activities of alcohol dehydogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase. Alcohol dehydrogenase metabolises alcohol to form acetaldehyde- a known human carcinogen. Aldehyde dehydrogenase breaks down acetaldehyde to acetic acid. Acetic acid is converted to carbon dioxide and water which is easily eliminated.

Humans have at least six slightly different forms of the enzyme- alcohol dehydrogenase. Each molecule of alcohol dehydrogenase has two Zinc ions (Zn2+) on each of its two polypeptides. Zinc plays a structural role and is crucial for the stability of protein. Major sources of zinc are seafoods (oysters, prawns, shrimps, crabs, fish, crayfish etc), whole grains, dairy products, poultry, nuts, meat especially red meat. There are few staple foods with quality amount of Zinc in them, they include maize and wheat.

Recommended daily allowance for zinc is 11mg for men from 14 years and above. For females it is 8mg for women over 19years, 11mg and 12mg for pregnant and lactating women respectively.

Zinc helps the immune system function effectively, maintains the skin structure and integrity etc. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include hair loss, diarrhea, growth and development problems, impotence, eye and skin conditions, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms may include weight loss, delayed wound healing, taste changes, and mental slowness.













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