The present study was designed to test whether ethanol ingestion affects plasma atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) concentration in healthy volunteers. On the basis of previous studies showing that ethanol induces a diuretic response and a decrease in atrial size (atrial distension), it was hypothesized that ethanol intake might be associated with a decrease in plasma ANF level. To somewhat increase plasma ANF level, the subjects were slightly loaded with water before the trial. As compared with juice, ethanol, 1 g/kg within 1 hr, increased urine output [405 +/- 37 (mean +/- SEM) ml/hr vs. 197 +/- 20 ml/hr, P less than 0.001]. Left atrial size decreased similarly (P less than 0.001) with both drinks. Plasma ANF concentration did not change with either ethanol or juice during the 3-hr study period. No changes were observed in plasma arginine vasopressin concentration and plasma renin activity. Our results are in conflict with previous reports in fasted subjects showing significant changes in plasma concentrations of the same hormones. Thus, the basal fluid balance seems to be crucial to the hormonal response to ethanol. The plasma concentrations of the hormones measured in this study do not directly explain the diuretic response to ethanol observed in slightly volume-loaded subjects.