Aims and objectives: Alcohol abuse is a major public health problem and one of the leading causes of preventable death. Data on the frequency of biochemical abnormalities among alcoholics in the Niger Delta region is unavailable. We therefore conducted this pilot study to determine the type of biochemical abnormalities amongst a group of chronic alcoholics in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Subjects and methods: Thirty (30) subjects aged 40 50 years with a daily alcohol consumption of more than 100g formed the study group. Thirty (30) aged matched controls from the same locality who were non-alcoholics were also recruited. Ten mls (10mls) of venous blood was collected from both subjects and controls from the antecubital fossa after obtaining informed consent into lithium heparin bottles. The plasma was harvested and stored at -20 degrees C until assayed. Plasma bilirubin, aspartate transaminase, alanine transaminase, alkaline phosphatase, gamma glutamyl transferase, glucose, total protein, albumin, magnesium, calcium and inorganic phosphorus were estimated using standard kit methods while plasma potassium was determined by flame photometry. Routine laboratory accuracy and precision controls were utilised.
Results: Alcohol abuse was associated with a significantly lower body weight, body mass index and percentage body fat. The plasma sodium, inorganic phosphate, gamma glutamyl transferase were significantly higher in chronic alcohol abuse when compared with normal subjects. On the other hand, the plasma magnesium, potassium, calcium, total protein, albumin and glucose were significantly reduced in the study subjects.
Conclusion: Biochemical abnormalities are common among chronic alcoholics in this region. They include hypernatraemia, hypoglycaemia, hypocalcaemia, hypomagnesaemia, hypokalaemia, hypoalbuminaemia and hyperphosphataemia. Aspartate transaminase and gamma glutamyl transferase are usually elevated and suggests alcoholic liver damage. Efforts should be made to identify these abnormalities and treat them as it may go a long way towards improving morbidity and mortality of alcohol related diseases.