Detoxification is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver. Additionally, it can refer to the period of withdrawal during which an organism returns to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detoxification)

  • Ethanol is metabolised in liver with ADH, which oxidises ethanol to acetaldehyde. The latter is a toxic substance and can cause tissue damage, therfore, it must be further oxidised by ALDH to form a non-toxic product, acetate.

  • Ethanol can be an addictive substance.

Why is ethanol metabolism catagorized as catabolism? Could it also be detoxification (according to the assumptions above)? Why not?

Is ethanol metabolism a catabolic metabolic pathway because it provides NADH and acetate (which can be activated to acetyl-CoA) for anabolic reactions? Or is there another reason?


1 Answer 1


These are somewhat loosely defined terms, but I would say catabolism is any metabolic process that extracts energy from a substrate. Ethanol conversion to acetate (via alcohol dehydrogenase; see this schematic) is an oxidative pathway which extracts energy in the form of NADH, so yes, it is a catabolic pathway.

I guess you can also call this process detoxification, since it removes a (mildly) toxic metabolite. Anyway, I think the "classification" of a pathway is less important than understanding the actual biochemistry.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .