Gender differences in alcohol metabolism: relationship to liver volume and effect of adjusting for body mass

Gastroenterology. 1998 Dec;115(6):1552-7. doi: 10.1016/s0016-5085(98)70035-6.


Background & aims: Alcoholic liver disease purportedly develops more readily in women than in men. Some studies have demonstrated faster rates of alcohol elimination in women. This study examined whether gender differences in alcohol metabolism are related to differences in liver volume and/or differences in lean body mass.

Methods: Ten men and 10 women had alcohol elimination rates determined by clamping of the breath alcohol concentration at 50 mg/dL by means of a constant rate of intravenous infusion of 6% ethanol. Liver volume was determined by computed tomography.

Results: Mean alcohol elimination rate and mean computed liver volume were not significantly different in men and women. Lean body mass was 42% greater in men than in women. Consequently, the calculated alcohol elimination rate and liver volume per kilogram of lean body mass were 33% and 38% higher in women than in men, respectively. When the alcohol elimination rate was calculated per unit liver volume, no gender-related difference was found.

Conclusions: Women have greater clearance of ethanol per unit lean body mass, confirming previous oral alcohol administration studies. Women have approximately the same liver volume as men, explaining the equivalent alcohol elimination rates seen when men and women are compared on the basis of liver size.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Ethanol