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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.



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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