Blood and urine samples were analyzed for ethanol, acetaldehyde and acetate during alcohol oxidation in Japanese men by head space gas chromatography, following the consumption of 16 ml/kg of beer during a 20 min period. The maximum level of blood/urine ethanol was found to be 15-17 mM (20-22 mM), while that of acetaldehyde in a flusher and in non-flushers was 20 microM (52 microM) and 2-5 microM (10-13 microM), respectively. Acetate levels in these groups ranged from 0.2 mM (0.1 mM) to 0.8 mM (1.0 mM). Blood ethanol levels were dose dependent, whereas acetaldehyde and acetate levels reflected individual metabolic rates. The relative concentrations of ethanol and acetaldehyde in blood and that of acetate in alcohol metabolism could be summarized as follows: 7500 (15 mM): 1-3 (2-5 microM); 250-400 (0.5-0.8 mM) for non-flushers; and 7500 (15 mM): 5-10 (10-20 microM): 250-400 (0.5-0.8 mM) for a flusher.