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Hum Psychopharmacol. 2012 Nov;27(6):559-65. doi: 10.1002/hup.2264. Epub 2012 Oct 2.

Relationship between carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, gamma-glutamyl transferase, and mean corpuscular volume levels and alcohol-related brain volume decreases in male drinkers.

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Department of Psychopharmacology, Utrecht Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



We investigated the association between mean corpuscular volume (MCV), carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT), and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) levels and gray and white brain matter in male drinkers to find out which if any of these biomarkers of alcohol consumption is indicative for alcohol-related differences in brain volume.


Plasma levels of CDT, GGT, and MCV and magnetic resonance imaging-determined brain gray and white matter volumes were assessed in 55 male drinkers. Current alcohol intake and lifetime alcohol intake were determined by self-report measures. The relationship between MCV, CDT, and GGT and brain volumes was explored using multiple linear regression analyses.


There was a significant negative relationship between plasma GGT and MCV levels and gray matter volumes. Middle-aged male drinkers with highly elevated GGT and MCV levels (twice the standard deviation above the mean) have 4-12% less parietal and occipital gray matter than males with average GGT and MCV levels. There was no association between CDT levels and brain gray or white matter.


Elevated GGT and MCV levels may be indicative of alcohol-related gray-matter decline in male drinkers. The link with GGT may reflect that elevated GGT levels are a sign of increased oxidative stress. The link with MCV levels may reflect a decreased oxygen transport to the brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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