Objective: To study the inter-relationships between daily alcohol intake, fat distribution and plasma androgens in order to verify whether daily alcohol intake correlates with abdominal body fat and, if so, to what extent such a relation is mediated by plasma androgens.
Subjects: A random sample of 87 clinically healthy women (aged 38 y) with a light-moderate alcohol consumption and without clinical evidence suggestive of any endocrine disorder.
Measurements: Anthropometric and computed tomography (CT scans made at the level of L4-L5 in a subgroup of 18 women) measurements of body fatness and adipose tissue distribution, main behavioural factors, including daily alcohol intake and plasma androgens (i.e. total and free testosterone levels).
Results: After adjustment for BMI, cigarette smoking and physical activity, significant differences were found in waist circumference and waist-hip ratio as well as in plasma androgens with increasing daily alcohol intake. Waist-thigh ratio tended to parallel waist-hip ratio, but did not achieve statistical significance. In simple linear regression analysis, abdominal visceral fat area, derived from CT, correlated positively with both plasma free testosterone and alcohol intake. While the above reported difference in body fat distribution totally disappeared after controlling also for free testosterone level, the differences in plasma androgens with increasing alcohol intake remained essentially unchanged when allowance was made also for waist-hip ratio. In multiple linear regression analysis, daily alcohol intake appeared to be positively and independently correlated to both plasma total and free testosterone levels. Neither BMI nor waist-hip ratio nor fasting insulin made any significant contribution to the prediction of plasma androgens after daily alcohol intake had been taken into account.
Conclusions: The results of this study show that moderate alcohol consumption correlates with abdominal distribution of body fat, likely due to enlarged visceral fat area, and increased plasma androgenicity (i.e. higher total and free testosterone levels) in adult healthy women. These data also suggest that the relation between alcohol intake and fat distribution may be, at least in part, mediated by plasma androgens.