Background/Aim: Ellagic acid (EA), one of the polyphenols that are abundantly contained in whisky as a nonalcoholic component, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. In the present study, we compared the action of whisky and pure ethanol on the rat gastric mucosa, and examined the role of EA in the less-damaging effect of whisky in the stomach. Methods: Under urethane anesthesia, a rat stomach was mounted in an ex vivo chamber, perfused with saline, and the transmucosal potential difference (PD) was measured before and after exposure to whisky (Yamazaki, Suntory) and ethanol (43%). In a separate study, the animals were given whisky or ethanol (1 ml, 43%) p.o. under unanesthetized conditions, killed 1 h later, and the gastric mucosa was examined for hemorrhagic lesions. Results: Both whisky and ethanol caused a PD reduction, resulting in damage in the stomach, but these responses were less marked in the case of whisky. Although the reduced PD recovered gradually after removal of ethanol, this process was significantly expedited by co-application of EA (80 μg/ml), the recovery rate being much the same as that observed after exposure to whisky. The less-damaging effect of whisky was confirmed in unanesthetized rats after p.o. administration of these agents. In addition, EA (1-30 mg/kg), administered p.o. together with absolute ethanol (99.9%), reduced the severity of gastric lesions induced by ethanol, in a dose-dependent manner, and the effect at 30 mg/kg was equivalent to that obtained by the whisky component containing several low- and high-molecular-weight polyphenols. EA had a scavenging action against both oxygen and hydroxyl radicals in vitro, the effect being equivalent to that of catechol or α-tocopherol. Conclusion: These results suggest that whisky is less irritating to the gastric mucosa, as compared with pure ethanol, and this property of whisky may be explained by EA, one of polyphenols contained in whisky, and its radical scavenging action.
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