Alcohol consumption among the elderly has increased. Alcohol metabolism changes with age and the elderly are more sensitive to the toxic effects; this increased consumption is therefore of great clinical relevance.
Metabolism of ethanol changes with advancing age because activity of the enzymes involved, such as alcohol and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and cytochrome P-4502E1, diminish with age. The water distribution volume also decreases with age. Both lead to increased blood concentrations of ethanol. Also, elderly people take more drugs, and ethanol and these drugs may interact; therefore, alcohol consumption can modify serum drug concentrations and their toxicity. Finally, elderly people may suffer more frequently from other types of liver disease, and alcohol may exacerbate these.
Over recent decades alcohol consumption has increased among those who are older than 65 years. Alcohol is more toxic in the ageing organism because of changes in its metabolism, distribution and elimination, which lead to central nervous system effects at lower levels of intake; also, ageing organs such as brain and liver are more sensitive to the toxicity of alcohol. For these reasons, alcohol should be used in moderation, especially among those of older age.
Department of Medicine and Laboratory of Alcohol Research, Liver Disease and Nutrition, Salem Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Germany
Correspondence to Helmut K. Seitz, MD, Salem Medical Centre, Zeppelinstrasse 11-33, D-69121 Heidelberg, Germany Tel: +49 6221 483 200; fax: +49 6221 483 494; e-mail: email@example.com