Alcohol consumption stimulates early steps in reverse cholesterol transport

J Lipid Res. 2001 Dec;42(12):2077-83.


Alcohol consumption is associated with increased HDL cholesterol levels, which may indicate stimulated reverse cholesterol transport. The mechanism is, however, not known. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of alcohol consumption on the first two steps of the reverse cholesterol pathway: cellular cholesterol efflux and plasma cholesterol esterification. Eleven healthy middle-aged men consumed four glasses (40 g of alcohol) of red wine, beer, spirits (Dutch gin), or carbonated mineral water (control) daily with evening dinner, for 3 weeks, according to a 4 x 4 Latin square design. After 3 weeks of alcohol consumption the plasma ex vivo cholesterol efflux capacity, measured with Fu5AH cells, was raised by 6.2% (P < 0.0001) and did not differ between the alcoholic beverages. Plasma cholesterol esterification was increased by 10.8% after alcohol (P = 0.008). Changes were statistically significant after beer and spirits, but not after red wine consumption (P = 0.16). HDL lipids changed after alcohol consumption; HDL total cholesterol, HDL cholesteryl ester, HDL free cholesterol, HDL phospholipids and plasma apolipoprotein A-I all increased (P < 0.01). In conclusion, alcohol consumption stimulates cellular cholesterol efflux and its esterification in plasma. These effects were mostly independent of the kind of alcoholic beverage

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / metabolism
  • Beer
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism
  • Esterification / drug effects
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Postprandial Period / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Wine


  • Apolipoprotein A-I
  • Cholesterol Esters
  • HDL cholesteryl ester
  • HDL-triglyceride
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Phospholipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Ethanol
  • Cholesterol