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Alcohol Alcohol. 2012 May-Jun;47(3):226-32. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agr162. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

Effect of an acute consumption of a moderate amount of ethanol on plasma endocannabinoid levels in humans.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesiology, Klinikum Grosshadern, University of Munich, Germany. matthias.feuerecker@med.uni-muenchen.de



Animal experiments have shown that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in the regulation of ethanol intake. We investigated these effects in healthy volunteers who consumed a moderate amount of ethanol (red wine) and measured plasma levels of the endocannabinoids (ECs) anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) to test whether alcohol consumption influences the ECS in humans. Grape juice or plain non-sparkling water served as non-alcoholic control liquids.


In total, 55 adults were enrolled in this study and assigned to one of three groups drinking either 250 ml of red wine (28.0 g of ethanol, <0.8 g of sugar and 187.5 kcal), grape juice (41.0 g of sugar, 187.5 kcal) or plain water within 10 min. Twenty minutes and 45 min thereafter, AEA, 2-AG, ethanol and glucose levels were determined from venous plasma samples.


AEA, 2-AG and plasma glucose levels were significantly reduced after red wine consumption. AEA had its maximal decline at 20 min (from 0.23 ± 0.12 to 0.18 ± 0.07 ng/ml, P < 0.01), whereas the nadir of 2-AG was seen after 45 min and dropped from 6.68 ± 4.13 to 5.49 ± 3.22 ng/ml (P < 0.05). Grape juice highly affected blood glucose level after 20 min, with a return to baseline after 45 min. ECs remained almost unchanged by this intervention. Water intake had no significant effect on AEA (0.21 ± 0.08 at baseline and 0.19 ± 0.06 after 45 min) but resulted in a gradual reduction in 2-AG concentrations which became significant at 45 min when compared with baseline.


The consumption of a moderate amount of red wine reduces plasma AEA and 2-AG concentrations, whereas the volume and caloric equivalent of the sugar containing, non-alcoholic liquid grape juice does not affect plasma ECs. Plain water has a differential effect on the ECS by reducing 2-AG concentrations without affecting AEA.

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