The metabolomic signatures of alcohol consumption in young adults

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2020 May;27(8):840-849. doi: 10.1177/2047487319834767. Epub 2019 Mar 11.


Background: Metabolomic analysis may help us to understand the association between alcohol consumption and cardio-metabolic health. We aimed to: (i) replicate a previous study of alcohol consumption and metabolic profiles, (ii) examine associations between types of alcoholic beverages and metabolites and (iii) include potential confounders not examined in previous studies.

Methods: Cross-sectional data of 1785 participants (age 26-36 years, 52% women) from the 2004-2006 Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study were used. Consumption of beer, wine and spirits was assessed by questionnaires. Metabolites were measured by a high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance platform and multivariable linear regression examined their association with alcohol consumption (combined total and types) adjusted for covariates including socio-demographics, health behaviours and mental health.

Results: Alcohol consumption was associated with 23 out of 37 lipids, 12 out of 16 fatty acids and six out of 20 low-molecular-weight metabolites independent of confounders with similar associations for combined total alcohol consumption and different types of alcohol. Many metabolites (lipoprotein lipids in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) subclasses, HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein A-1, phosphotriglycerides, total fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids) had positive linear associations with alcohol consumption but some showed negative linear (low-density lipoprotein particle size, omega-6 fatty acids ratio to total fatty acids, citrate) or U-shaped (lipoprotein lipids in very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) subclasses, VLDL triglycerides) associations.

Conclusions: Our results were similar to those of the only previous study. Associations with metabolites were similar for total and types of alcohol. Alcohol consumption in young adults is related to a diverse range of metabolomic signatures associated with benefits and harms to health.

Keywords: Alcohol; epidemiology; fatty acids; metabolic profiling; metabolomics; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Beer* / adverse effects
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics*
  • Prevalence
  • Tasmania / epidemiology
  • Wine* / adverse effects


  • Biomarkers