1. Plasma and urine free and total carnitine and acylcarnitine levels were assayed in 12 control subjects and 20 chronic alcoholics with fatty liver. Although the alcoholics had a wider range of values than the controls, there was no significant difference between the two groups.
2. Hepatic free and total carnitine and long- and short-chain acylcarnitines were assayed by a radioenzymatic method in samples from seven control subjects and seven alcoholics. No significant differences in any of the indices were noted between the patient and control groups and it was concluded that carnitine deficiency did not contribute to alcoholic fatty liver in patients without cirrhosis.
3. Skeletal muscle free and total carnitine and long-and short-chain acylcarnitines were assayed in eight alcoholics and seven control subjects. The alcoholics had significantly higher total and free carnitine levels. It is suggested that this reflects a selective enrichment of the biopsy sample with type I carnitine-rich fibres due to the type II fibre atrophy found in approximately half the patients.