Metabolic and biochemical effects of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Apr;37(4):575-86. doi: 10.1111/acer.12015. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Abstract

Background: Alcohol consumption has multiple biochemical consequences. Only a few of these are useful as diagnostic markers, but many reflect potentially harmful or beneficial effects of alcohol. Average consumption of 2 to 4 drinks per day is associated with lower overall or cardiovascular mortality risk than either lower or higher intake. We have analyzed the dose-response relationships between reported alcohol consumption and 17 biomarkers, with emphasis on intake of up to 3 drinks per day.

Methods: Biochemical tests were performed on serum from 8,396 study participants (3,750 men and 4,646 women, aged 51 ± 13 years, range 18 to 93) who had provided information on alcohol consumption in the week preceding blood collection.

Results: Gamma glutamyl transferase, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, urate, ferritin, and bilirubin showed little or no change with alcohol consumption below 2 to 3 drinks per day, but increased with higher intake. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol and albumin showed increasing results, and insulin showed decreasing results, across the entire range of alcohol use. Biphasic responses, where subjects reporting 1 to 2 drinks per day had lower results than those reporting either more or less alcohol use, occurred for triglycerides, glucose, C-reactive protein, alkaline phosphatase, and butyrylcholinesterase. Increasing alcohol use was associated with decreasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in younger women, but higher LDL-C in older men.

Conclusions: Some markers show threshold relationships with alcohol, others show continuous ones, and a third group show biphasic or U-shaped relationships. Overall, the biochemical sequelae of low-to-moderate alcohol use are consistent with the epidemiological evidence on morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, LDL