In the following case state the chemical reaction that took place in the patient's body and identify the substance produced in the liver that helps catalyze this reaction. A 40-year-old manager, at a prominent legal firm in L.A., experiences abdominal pain post lunch. He goes to the restroom a couple of times, but continues to experience pain and cramps. He eventually decides to get himself examined. While questioning him, you learn that he consumed two bottles of beer at lunch. The alcohol (ethyl alcohol/ethanol) content in a 12 oz. bottle of beer is about 5%. The man's weight is 150 lbs and he was drinking over an hour period.

Expert Answers

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When alcohol is consumed the primary pathway used by the body to eliminate it is by converting it to acetaldehyde which is then converted to acetate.

The initial matabolism of alcohol is carried out in the liver. The first stage of the metabolism process is made possible due to the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).

Using alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), ethanol CH3CH2OH is converted to acetaldehyde CH3CHO. Acetaldehyde is a substance that is very harmful for the body and causes a lot of damage by killing cells and even leads to cancer. This is the reason why the body converts acetaldehyde as fast as it can to a less danerous substance called acetate CH3COO-. This is done with the help of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

The acetate that is produced has to be converted to carbon dioxide and water for it to be disposed from the body. This final step takes place in organs other than the liver.

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