Prolonged alcohol consumption has consequences on the liver, producing necrotic precipitates and fibrosis, on the pancreas, causing the pancreatic acini to atrophy and destroying insulin-producing cells, and on the central nervous system (CNS), causing the gray and white matter in the frontal lobes of the brain and cerebellum to atrophy. Generally, alcohol is metabolized via oxidative pathways, where the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase participate during its metabolization in the liver and CNS, or via non- oxidative pathways during its metabolization in the pancreas. Ethanol metabolism can produce oxidative stress and tissue damage mediated by free radicals, causing morphological and functional alterations in the liver. In the pancreas, it can cause progressive and irreversible damage affecting the endocrine and exocrine functions, a result of the activation of the stellate cells, which are activated directly by alcohol, causing pancreatic fibrosis. In the CNS ethanol can bind directly to proteins, nucleic acids and phospholipids to develop its pathogenesis. The effects produced by alcohol can be counteracted by supplementation with antioxidants, which reduce the inflammation and areas of focal necrosis in the liver, inhibit the activation of pancreatic stellate cells, and reduce oxidative stress in the CNS. Additionally, in order to reduce the negative effects associated with alcohol consumption, recent studies have suggested the administration of antioxidants as a treatment strategy.
KEY WORDS: Antioxidants; Ethanol; Liver; Pancreas; Central nervous system.