Alcohol-induced changes in urinary aminolevulinic acid and porphyrins: Unrelated to liver disease

Nili Schoenfeld*, Rivka Mamet, Leonard Leibovici, Amos Lanir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urinary porphyrins and their metabolites aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and porphobilinogen (PBG) were determined in 15 normal volunteers and in 45 alcoholics, subdivided into three groups according to their liver function tests and histology: alcoholics exhibiting no evidence of hepatocellular damage; alcoholics with fatty liver and impaired function of liver enzymes; and alcoholics with proven liver cirrhosis. The dominant trend observed in those alcoholics devoid of any evidence of liver disease was increased ALA, PBG, and uroporphyrin. Coproporphyrinuria was shared by the patients exhibiting liver damage. The data shown enabled us to differentiate between the direct, primary effect of alcohol on the heme biosynthetic pathway and the secondary indirect effect, which is probably related to liver damage that follows alcohol consumption. Evaluation of the results led to the suggestion that urinary ALA could possibly serve as a marker of alcoholism. The specificity and sensitivity of the test were found to be 87% and 80%, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-63
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • Alcohol
  • Aminolevulinic acid
  • Coproporphyrin isomers
  • Coproporphyrinuria
  • Liver damage


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