Sluggish gallbladder emptying and gastrointestinal transit after intake of common alcoholic beverages

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Feb;65(1):55-66.


To study the movement along the gut and the effect upon the gallbladder volume of alcoholic beverages taken in the interdigestive state. The study comprised three research blocks attended by 12 healthy subjects each. Within a given research block volunteers underwent three examination sessions held on separate days, being offered an alcoholic beverage, or an aqueous ethanol solution of an identical proof, or a corresponding volume of isotonic glucose solution; the order of administration of the drinks was randomized. The beverages tested were: beer (4.7% vol, 400 ml), red wine (13.7% vol, 200 ml), whisky (43.5% vol, 100 ml) within the "Beer", "Wine", and "Whisky" research block, respectively. Gastric myoelectrical activity was examined electrogastrographically, gastric emptying with ¹³C-sodium acetate breath test, orocaecal transit with lactulose H₂ breath test, gallbladder emptying with ultrasonography, breath ethanol with alcotest. The study showed that alcoholic beverages were emptied from the stomach significantly slower than isotonic glucose. Alcoholic beverages produced by fermentation only (beer, red wine) were emptied from the stomach more slowly than ethanol solutions of identical proof, while gastric evacuation of whisky (distillation product) and matching alcohol solution was similar. The slower gastric evacuation of alcoholic beverages and ethanol solutions could not be ascribed to a disorganization of the gastric myoelectrical activity. The orocaecal transit of beer and red wine did not differ from that of isotonic glucose, whereas the orocaecal transit of whisky and high proof ethanol was markedly prolonged. Red wine and whisky, and to a similar extent control ethanol solutions caused an inhibition and delay of gallbladder emptying. We concluded that alcoholic beverages taken on an empty stomach exert a suppressive effect upon the transport function of the digestive tract and gallbladder emptying. The extent of this action depends on the type of a beverage (whether it is obtained from fermentation only, or fermentation followed by distillation) and ethanol concentration therein.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Breath Tests
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Gallbladder Emptying / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stomach / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol