Ingesting alcohol prior to food can alter the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis Academic Article uri icon


  • There is an increasing evidence that long-term alcohol intake can promote damage to most of the body's major organs. However, regular consumption of a small-moderate amount of alcohol is often recommended as being beneficial to health and of concern is that the effect of ingesting commercially available alcohol products on steroid hormone synthesis under variable nutritional conditions has not been thoroughly investigated. Many individuals consume alcohol alone prior to a meal and the aim of the present study was to assess the effect of consuming a small-moderate amount of commercially available alcohol on the level of salivary cortisol and salivary dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) before and after a meal. A total of 24 males aged 19-22 years participated in the current investigation. The experimental procedure required participants to fast for 6 h before being asked to ingest either 40 g alcohol in the form of red wine (n=8), low alcohol and high beer (n=8), white wine (n=8) or the equivalent amount of placebo over a 135-min period before consuming food for 45-min. The level of blood alcohol, salivary cortisol and salivary DHEAS was assessed upon arrival and then at regular 45-min intervals during the 180-min experimental period. The results showed that the consumption of alcohol and placebo can significantly lower the level of salivary cortisol. However, the effect of consuming a small-moderate amount of commercially available alcohol on the level of salivary DHEAS was dependent on the nutritional content of the beverage with red wine promoting no change, white wine promoting a significant decrease, and beer having a variable effect on salivary DHEAS concentration when compared to placebo. It was concluded that the effect of commercially available alcohol on the HPA axis is not the same for all alcohol products and both the nutritional status of participants and the nutritional content of the alcoholic beverage being administered should be taken into consideration when investigating the effect of alcohol on the HPA axis.

publication date

  • August 2009