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Review
, 22 (3), 220-7

Alcoholic Beverages as a Source of Estrogens

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Review

Alcoholic Beverages as a Source of Estrogens

J S Gavaler. Alcohol Health Res World.

Abstract

Alcoholic beverages contain not only alcohol but also numerous other substances (i.e., congeners) that may contribute to the beverages' physiological effects. Plants used to produce alcoholic beverages contain estrogenlike substances (i.e., phytoestrogens). Observations that men with alcoholic cirrhosis often show testicular failure and symptoms of feminization have suggested that alcoholic beverages may contain biologically active phytoestrogens as congeners. Biochemical analyses have identified several phytoestrogens in the congeners of bourbon, beer, and wine. Studies using subjects who produced no estrogen themselves (i.e., rats whose ovaries had been removed and postmenopausal women) demonstrated that phytoestrogens in alcoholic beverage congeners exerted estrogenlike effects in both animals and humans. Those effects were observed even at moderate drinking levels.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Schematic representation of the preparation of alcoholic beverage congener concentrates, which can be used to investigate the effects of those congeners in rats whose ovaries have been removed (OVEX rats) and in postmenopausal women.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Protocol of experiments to evaluate potential estrogenlike effects of alcoholic beverage congeners in (A) rats whose ovaries have been removed (i.e., ovariectomized) and (B) postmenopausal women. NOTE: FSH = follicle-stimulating hormone; LH = luteinizing hormone.
Figure 3
Figure 3
The effects of bourbon and red wine congeners on (A) uterus weight and (B) luteinizing hormone (LH) levels of rats whose ovaries had been removed. The animals received congeners corresponding to one standard drink (low dose) or two standard drinks (high dose) daily in their drinking water for 4 weeks. Uterus weights and LH levels in the congener-exposed animals are expressed as the percentage of the mean level in unexposed control animals (defined as 100 percent). The uterus weights are corrected for the animals’ body weights. Both bourbon and red wine congeners induced estrogenlike effects (i.e., increased uterus weight and reduced LH levels). Moreover, red wine congeners induced more pronounced changes than did bourbon congeners. NOTE: The wide bars represent mean values, whereas narrow brackets represent the standard error of the mean. A star above a bar indicates a statistically significant difference from the value in the control animals (p < 0.05).
Figure 4
Figure 4
Effects of alcoholic beverage congeners on (A) follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and (B) luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in postmenopausal women. For 4 weeks, the women consumed congener amounts corresponding to those present in one standard drink of the beverage daily. Basal hormone levels were determined before the women began the experiment. Trough levels represent the lowest hormone levels that were detected during the 4-week administration period of alcoholic beverage congeners. Recovery levels were determined 1 week after the last ingestion of congeners. All congeners had estrogenlike effects (i.e., resulted in lower FSH and LH levels). The effects of the various congeners did not differ significantly. NOTE: The wide bars represent mean values, whereas the narrow brackets represent the standard error of the mean. A star above a bar indicates a significant difference from basal levels as determined by paired T-test (p < 0.025). The differences in baseline levels result from variations in the mean levels of the subjects in the various groups. IU/L = International units per liter.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Effects of alcoholic beverage congeners on the levels of (A) prolactin (Prl), (B) high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and (C) sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in postmenopausal women. For 4 weeks, the women consumed congener amounts corresponding to those present in one standard drink of the beverage daily. Basal hormone levels were determined before the women began the experiment. Peak levels represent the highest hormone levels that were detected during the 4-week administration period of alcoholic beverage congeners. Recovery levels were determined 1 week after the last ingestion of congeners. All congeners had estrogenlike effects (i.e., resulted in elevated levels of Prl, HDL cholesterol, and SHBG). The effects of the various congeners did not differ significantly.

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References

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