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Effect of alcohol concentration on the transit rate of different food materials in the gastro intesinal tract of wistar Rats.


Transit rate of eaten food materials through the gastrointestinal tract is dependent usually on adequate contraction of the smooth muscle lining the gut wall. The contraction of the smooth muscle is under the regulation of the enteric and the autonomic nervous systems, hormonal systems as well as the physical presence of food within the gut. Amongst healthy individuals and animals considerable variation is found in transit rate of food materials through the gastrointestinal tract. The rate at which materials transit the gastrointestinal tract is significantly affected by the type of meal (Tirelli, et al., 2005)

Also, transit rate can also be influenced by such factors as psychological stress, gender and reproductive status.

Alcoholic beverages, especially when consumed in large quantities have been reported to interfere with the normal functioning and structure of the gastrointestinal tract (Bode, et al., 1996; Berkes, et al., 2003). For example, alcohol can impair the functions of the smooth muscle, and in the esophagus, causing the occurrence of heartburn (Bode, 1980). Similarly, alcohol may impair the muscle movement in the small and large intestines, contributing to the diarrhea frequently seen in alcoholics (Bode, 1992).

An increased peristaltic activity in the small bowel was observed following oral intraduodenal administration of alcohol to human subjects (Schmidt et al., 1997). At the molecular level, smooth muscles contraction very importantly depends on the availability of intra as well as extra cellular calcium ion. Several researches have reported a fall in plasma calcium ion levels following alcohol consumption (Taichanpeng, et al., 1972; Taichanpeng, et al., 1974; Petroianu, et al., 1991; Gang, et al., 1997)

Alcohol is a commonly consumed substance in our environment and most parts of the world, while several studies on the effects of alcohol on the gastrointestinal tract can be found; studies on the extent to which it affects transit rate of food materials within the gastrointestinal tracts are scanty in this environment. This study hopes to provide an insight into the subject matter.

Materials and Methods

Fifty four (54) male Wister rats weighing between 200 to 250g were used in this study. The rats were procured from the breeding colony of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Animal House. They were housed in plastic cages under optimal temperature.

They were feed with rat chows and allowed free access to drinking water. Before the commencement of the experiment, the acclimatization period took two weeks.. The rats were divided into 3group, (carbohydrate, protein and fat respectively). They were further subdivided into 3groups, (0%, 5% and 15% alcohol concentration respectively). The alcohol concentrations were chosen based on LD50 studies carried out before the commencement of the experiment.

Composition of Test Meals

Essentially, carbohydrate meal consists of 8g of sliced cooked yam blended with 2g of rat chows and 1g of activated charcoal.

Essentially, fat meal consists of 4ml of palm oil mixed with 2g of rat chows and 1g of activated charcoal.

Essentially, protein meal consist of 8g of powder milk (low fat) mixed with 2g of rat chows and 1g of activated charcoal.

The entire study lasted for three weeks, and each sub-group of was studied for forty eight hours. The rats were starved for the twenty four hours, after which each was fed with the appropriate test meal for thirty minutes. Immediately after the feeding, alcohol was administered using an orogastric tube to the experimental groups, while water was given to the control groups. Three hours after the administration of the alcohol, the rats were anaesthetized using chloroform and the abdominal cavity cut open. The entire length of the small intestine in each case was measured, as well as the distance traveled by the test meal along the small intestine.

The transit rate of the food material for each rat is expressed as a percentage of the small intestinal tract traveled by the test meal.

Statistical Analysis

The results were expressed as mean[+ or -] SD. The means of the experimental and control group were compared using Computerized Software-Microsoft Excel 2003, by the students Test assuming unequal variance and single factor ANOVA test. P-values less than 0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.


A total of fifty four male Wistar rats with a mean average weight of 220.67[+ or -]3.88 grams were used for this study. The results of the study are presented and explained below.


The questions, how long does it take to for food to transit through the gastro-intestinal tract, and do all food type transit at the same rate are often asked. First, there is considerable normal variability among healthy individuals and animals in the transit rate of food materials through different segments of the gastro-intestinal tract. Second, the time required for material to move through the digestive tube is significantly affected by the composition of the meal (Tirelli, 2005). Finally, transit of material through the gastro-intestinal tract is influenced by such factors as psychological stress and concomitant consumption of other substances such as alcohol (camilleri, et al., 1989)

Alcohol has been reported to produce a variety of structural and functional alterations in the gut, depending on the concentration and duration of exposure (Ray,et al., 1989; Pfeiffer, et al., 1992; chari, et al., 1993).

In rats, an inhibition of smooth muscle contractility was observed following an acute and chronic alcohol administration (petroianu, et al., 1991; Ferenc, et al., 2001; Sim, et al., 2002).

In this study, the results showed a statistically significant difference in transit rate (P<0.05) when compared with the control group. And this inhibition was observed to be more with the 15% alcohol.

Generally, smooth muscle contract only after the level of intra-cellular calcium ion has been increased beyond 10 M (Bolton, 1979). The source of these activator calcium ions is essentially from the extra cellular fluid (Huddart and Saad 1977, 1980), though the participation of intracellular bound calcium ion pool cannot be excluded. The decreased transit rate of intestinal content observed following the consumption of 5 and 15% alcohol could be attributed to diminish calcium ion availability to the contractile machinery of the intestinal smooth muscles, this opinion is supported by (Sim, et al., 2002).

Results from this study shows that a single dose of alcohol treatment, especially at a high concentration can cause alteration in the transit rate. This alteration could be attributed to both structural and functional changes within the gastrointestinal tract. With this knowledge, it is recommended that alcohol in its various forms should be consumed in moderation and when possible, avoided altogether.


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* Anthony E. Ojieh (a), Patrick C. Aloamaka (a), Simon I. Ovuakporaye (b), * Ighele E. Awire (c) and Harrison O. Otamere (d)

(abc) Department of Physiology, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria (c) Department of Medical Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. (d) Department of Physiology, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Nigeria

* Corresponding Author E-mail:,
Table 1: Effect of ethanol on transit of different food types in the
gastrointestinal tract of Wistar rats (% small intestinal traveled).

Alcohol Essentially Fat Essential Carbohydrate
strength Diet Diet

Control (0%) 72.51[+ or -]0.57 65.72[+ or -]0.13
Test (5%) 55.10[+ or -]3.41 42.46[+ or -]0.61
Test (15%) 43.53[+ or -]0.68 33.68[+ or -]0.38

Alcohol Essentially Protein
strength Diet

Control (0%) 63.55[+ or -]1.77
Test (5%) 48.30[+ or -]4.26
Test (15%) 38.47[+ or -]0.63

Values are expressed as mean [+ or] SD for n=6 rats per group

* P <0.05: compared with control

P <0.05: significantly different (fat / 15% alcohol vs carbohydrate
/ 15% alcohol vs

Protein / 15% alcohol)- single factor ANOVA test.

P<0.05: significantly different (Fat/ 5%alcohol vs carbohydrate
/5%Alcohol vs Protein/5%Alcohol)-single factor ANOVA test

P < 0.05: significantly different (Fat Vs Carbonhydrate Vs protein
(control)- Single

Factor ANOVA test

The percentage small bowel traveled was observed to decrease with
increasing alcohol concentration in all three diet types compared with
the control. Essentially fat diet was however observed to be least
affected compared with the essentially protein and carbohydrate diets.

Table 2: Effect of alcohol treatment on the rate of transit of the
different types of diet in the small bowel of Wistar rats

Alcohol Control Essentially Fat
Strength Diet

5% 0.35[+ or -] 0.01 *0.31[+ or -] 0.30
15% 0.37[+ or -] 0.00 *0.24[+ or -] 0.00

Alcohol Essentially CHO Essentially Protein
Strength Diet Diet

5% *0.26[+ or -] 0.00 *0.27[+ or -] 0.26
15% *0.19[+ or -] 0.00 *0.21[+ or -] 0.00

Values are expressed as Mean[+ or -] SD for n=6
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Author:Ojieh, Anthony E.; Aloamaka, Patrick C.; Ovuakporaye, Simon I.; Awire, Ighele E.; Otamere, Harrison
Publication:International Journal of Biotechnology & Biochemistry
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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