Metabolic and Biochemical Effects of Low-to-Moderate Alcohol Consumption

John B. Whitfield, Andrew C. Heath, Pamela A.F. Madden, Michele L. Pergadia, Grant W. Montgomery, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Biomarkers
  • Dose-Response curve
  • Population study

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