The leaky gut of alcoholism: possible route of entry for toxic compounds

Lancet. 1984 Jan 28;1(8370):179-82. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(84)92109-3.


Intestinal permeability was investigated with a chromium-51-EDTA (edetic acid) absorption test in 36 non-intoxicated alcoholic patients without liver cirrhosis or overt clinical evidence of malabsorption or malnutrition. Patients abstaining from alcohol for less than 4 days almost invariably had higher intestinal permeability than controls, and in many the abnormality persisted for up to 2 weeks after cessation of drinking. The presence of gastritis did not correlate with the presence of increased permeability. The site of altered intestinal permeability was shown by an in-vitro permeability test to be the small bowel. The increased intestinal permeability to toxic "non-absorbable" compounds of less than 5000 molecular weight may account for some of the extraintestinal tissue damage common in alcoholic patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / metabolism*
  • Chromium Radioisotopes / urine
  • Edetic Acid / urine
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Jejunum / pathology
  • Molecular Weight
  • Nutrition Disorders / etiology
  • Permeability


  • Chromium Radioisotopes
  • Ethanol
  • Edetic Acid