Effects of alcohol ingestion on estrogens in postmenopausal women

JAMA. 1996 Dec 4;276(21):1747-51. doi: 10.1001/jama.1996.03540210055034.


Objective: To determine if moderate alcohol drinking increases circulating estradiol levels in postmenopausal women who are taking estrogen replacement.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of the effects of alcohol ingestion on plasma estradiol and estrone.

Setting: Inpatient Clinical Research Center.

Participants: Twelve healthy postmenopausal women receiving oral estrogen (estradiol, 1 mg/day) and progestin (medroxyprogesterone acetate) replacement therapy were compared with 12 postmenopausal women who were not using estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

Intervention: Each group drank alcohol (0.7 g/kg) and an isoenergetic (isocaloric) placebo (randomized sequence) on consecutive days. Women who were taking ERT were studied during the estrogen-only portion of their replacement cycle, and estrogen was administered each evening at 2100 hours.

Main outcome measure: The impact of alcohol ingestion on plasma estradiol and estrone levels.

Results: Alcohol ingestion lead to a 3-fold increase in circulating estradiol in women on ERT; however, alcohol did not change estradiol significantly in control women who were not on ERT. In women using ERT, estradiol levels increased from 297 to 973 pmol/L (81 to 265 pg/mL) within 50 minutes (P<.001) during the ascending limb of the blood alcohol curve and remained significantly above baseline for 5 hours (P<.001). No significant increase in circulating estrone was detected in either group. However, estrone levels decreased after alcohol and placebo in women on ERT (P<.05). Blood alcohol levels did not differ significantly in women who used ERT and those who did not. Peak blood alcohol levels of 21 mmol/L were attained in each of the 2 groups within 50 to 60 minutes after drinking began. Changes in estradiol were significantly correlated with changes in blood alcohol levels on both the ascending (P<.001) and descending (P<.001) limb of the blood alcohol curve.

Conclusions: Acute alcohol ingestion may lead to significant and sustained elevations in circulating estradiol to levels 300% higher than those targeted in clinical use of ERT. Potential health risks and benefits of the interactions between acute alcohol ingestion and ERT should be further evaluated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Estradiol / therapeutic use
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrone / blood*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / physiology


  • Estrone
  • Ethanol
  • Estradiol
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate