Moderate alcohol consumption increases plasma levels of a protective hormone

  • Moderate alcohol consumption is believed to have protective cardiovascular health benefits, possibly through its effects on hormones.
  • Researchers examine alcohol's effect on three hormones: dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), testosterone and estradiol.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption appears to increase plasma DHEAS levels for both men and women.

Moderate alcohol consumption is known to have positive, possibly even protective, cardiovascular health effects. A study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research investigates the role that certain hormones may play in the cardiovascular benefits of alcohol, specifically, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), testosterone and estradiol. Researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption can increase plasma DHEAS levels for both men and women, decrease plasma testosterone among men, and has no effect on plasma estradiol levels.

"DHEAS is believed to play a protective role against atherosclerosis in both genders," said Henk F.J. Hendriks, a senior scientist at TNO Nutrition and Food Research in The Netherlands and corresponding author for the study, "just like low testosterone does for men." Atherosclerosis is characterized by irregularly distributed lipid deposits in the arteries, which can provoke fibrosis and calcification, impede blood flow, and/or eventually shut off blood flow. "This is the first diet-controlled intervention study which shows that moderate alcohol drinking can increase DHEAS," he added.

"Estradiol, or estrogens in general," Hendriks continued, "may be pivotal in the protection from coronary heart disease in premenopausal women. An association between moderate alcohol consumption and breast cancer has been proposed, which may be mediated through an increase in estradiol."

"A lot of the earlier work in this area looked at hormones because of associations that had been found between alcohol and breast canc


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