Alcohol consumption and synthesis of ethyl esters of fatty acids in adipose tissue

P Björntorp, G Depergola, C Sjöberg, U. Pettersson-Kymmer, P Hallgren, K Boström, K G Helander, J Seidell

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Ethyl esters of fatty acids (EEFA) have been found to be formed during ethanol metabolism. Human adipose tissue contains high concentrations of free fatty acids, the substrate for EEFA synthesis, and might therefore be a tissue with great potential for EEFA formation. In order to explore their potential usefulness as markers of alcohol abuse, the EEFA concentration and the activity of EEFA-synthesizing enzyme were therefore determined in adipose tissue from men belonging to the following categories: teetotalers, social drinkers, alcoholics under treatment, or established alcoholics found to have died as a result of alcohol intoxication. In order to estimate the half-life of EEFA and the synthase activity induction, the alcoholics were examined after different time periods of abstinence from alcohol. Comparisons were also made with several established markers of alcohol abuse. EEFA were not found in teetotalers, and were found in low concentrations in some of the social drinkers. EEFA were found in several alcoholics, and the forensic cases had high concentrations. EEFA-synthesizing enzyme activity was found in all subjects, increasing from teetotalers to social drinkers, and being 2-fold higher in alcoholics and 5-fold higher in dead alcoholics. The induction of the enzyme after abstinence appeared to have a half-life of the order of several weeks. Correlations were found between EEFA synthase activity and previously established markers of alcohol abuse known to remain for a long time period after abstinence, such as mean erythrocyte corpuscular volume. This preliminary study suggests the possibility that EEFA synthase induction in adipose tissue might have a longer half-life than previously used markers of alcohol abuse. It is therefore suggested that the induction of EEFA synthase might be a potentially useful new marker for alcohol abuse because of its apparent proportionality to alcohol intake over a prolonged time period, its presumed specificity, and long-term elevation after alcohol abstinence. This potential marker should be analysed further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-62
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Internal Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1990


  • Acyltransferases
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Alcoholism
  • Enzyme Induction
  • Esters
  • Ethanol
  • Fatty Acids
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Abstinence
  • Time Factors
  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article


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