Researchers from Baltimore, Maryland, USA assessed whether there is an association between ethanol and obesity in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and control subjects without known liver
disease. They also determined whether alcohol could be detected in the breath of human subjects.
Similarities between histological features of alcoholic hepatitis and obesity-related liver disease suggest a common pathogenic mechanism. As intestinal bacteria can produce ethanol, it is conceivable that intestinally derived alcohol may contribute to fatty liver disease.
Breath ethanol concentration was determined in 21 patients with biopsy-proven NASH and in 10 control subjects by gas chromatography.
An abnormal breath ethanol level was defined as two standard deviations above the mean value of the breath ethanol of lean controls.
The researchers detected minute quantities of ethanol in the breath of human subjects who had not consumed alcohol in the recent past.
|Obese subjects and women have higher breath ethanol concentrations.|
|Am J Gastroenterol|
Patients who were obese were found to be more likely to have higher breath ethanol concentrations. Women also had higher breath alcohol than men.
However, there was no difference between patients with NASH and controls. Severity of liver disease, as evidenced by cirrhosis, did not influence the breath ethanol concentration.
Author S. Nair, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, concluded on behalf of colleagues, "Higher breath ethanol concentrations are observed in obese subjects than in leaner ones. It is possible that intestinally derived ethanol may contribute to the pathogenesis of NASH."