Research Article

Chlorpropamide-alcohol flushing, aldehyde dehydrogenase activity, and diabetic complications.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 285 doi: (Published 25 September 1982) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982;285:838
  1. H Ohlin,
  2. P Jerntorp,
  3. B Bergström,
  4. L O Almér


    Many diabetics who take chlorpropamide (a sulphonylurea compound) experience facial flushing after drinking even small amounts of alcohol. These flushers have a noticeably lower prevalence of late complications of diabetes (microangiopathy, macroangiopathy, and neuropathy) than non-flushers. This flush reaction is accompanied by increased blood acetaldehyde concentrations, suggesting an inhibition of aldehyde dehydrogenase activity. In the present study the activity of this enzyme in erythrocytes was assessed in the absence of chlorpropamide. Erythrocyte homogenates obtained from flushers and non-flushers were incubated with acetaldehyde and the rate of metabolism studies. Flushers eliminated acetaldehyde more slowly at a low range of concentrations (0--30 mumol/l), suggesting a difference in aldehyde dehydrogenase activity. Further studies are needed to clarify the role of this enzyme in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications.