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August 1, 1959


Author Affiliations

New Haven, Conn.

From the Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1959;170(14):1671-1676. doi:10.1001/jama.1959.63010140008014

Alcohol is believed to play an important role in the pathogenesis of Laennec's cirrhosis and is known to potentiate the hepatotoxic effects of certain agents. Yet, paradoxically, in neither instance has it been established that alcohol exerts a direct effect on the liver. (In this report, the term alcohol refers to ethanol only.) The fact that alcohol has a caloric value of approximately 7 calories per gram and is capable of replacing isodynamic quantities of dietary carbohydrate in the support of growth1 suggests that, in moderate amounts, it is a food rather than a poison. However, this does not exclude the possibility that, in excess, alcohol has a deleterious effect on the liver, as is the case with certain other foodstuffs. Indeed, the results of recent experimental studies2 are consistent with this interpretation. The purpose of this report is to review briefly the evidence implicating alcohol as a