Alcohol consumption raises HDL cholesterol levels by increasing the transport rate of apolipoproteins A-I and A-II

Circulation. 2000 Nov 7;102(19):2347-52. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.102.19.2347.


Background: Moderate alcohol intake is associated with lower atherosclerosis risk, presumably due to increased HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations; however, the metabolic mechanisms of this increase are poorly understood.

Methods and results: We tested the hypothesis that ethanol increases HDL-C by raising transport rates (TRs) of the major HDL apolipoproteins apoA-I and -II. We measured the turnover of these apolipoproteins in vivo in paired studies with and without alcohol consumption in 14 subjects. The fractional catabolic rate (FCR) and TR of radiolabeled apoA-I and -II were determined in the last 2 weeks of a 4-week Western-type metabolic diet, without (control) or with alcohol in isocaloric exchange for carbohydrates. Alcohol was given as vodka in fixed amounts ranging from 0.20 to 0.81 g. kg(-1). d(-1) (mean+/-SD 0.45+/-0.19) to reflect the usual daily intake of each subject. HDL-C concentrations increased 18% with alcohol compared with the control (Wilcoxon matched-pairs test, P=0.002). The apoA-I concentrations increased by 10% (P=0.048) and apoA-II concentrations increased by 17% (P=0.005) due to higher apoA-I and -II TRs, respectively, whereas the FCR of both apoA-I and -II did not change. The amount of alcohol consumed correlated with the degree of increase in HDL-C (Pearson's r=0.66, P=0.01) and apoA-I TR (r=0.57, P=0.03). The increase in HDL-C also correlated with the increase in apoA-I TR (r=0.61, P=0.02).

Conclusions: Alcohol intake increases HDL-C in a dose-dependent fashion, associated with and possibly caused by an increase in the TR of HDL apolipoproteins apoA-I and -II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / blood
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein A-II / blood
  • Apolipoprotein A-II / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Apolipoprotein A-I
  • Apolipoprotein A-II
  • Cholesterol, HDL