Ingestion of the calorically dense compound alcohol may cause metabolic disturbances including hypoglycaemia, hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance, but the underlying mechanisms are uncertain. The gastrointestinal tract is well recognised as a major influencer on glucose, protein and lipid metabolism, but its role in alcohol metabolism remains unclear.
To examine the effects of oral and intravenous alcohol, respectively, on plasma concentrations of several gluco-regulatory hormones including serum/plasma insulin, C-peptide, glucagon, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21).
Design and methods
In a double-blinded, randomised, crossover design, we subjected 12 healthy men to intragastric ethanol infusion (IGEI) and an isoethanolaemic intravenous ethanol infusion (IVEI) (0.7 g alcohol per kg body weight), respectively, on two separate experimental days.
Isoethanolaemia during the two alcohol administration forms was obtained (P = 0.38). During both interventions, plasma glucose peaked after ~30 min and thereafter fell below baseline concentrations. GIP and GLP-1 concentrations were unaffected by the two interventions. Insulin concentrations were unaffected by IGEI but decreased during IVEI. C-peptide, insulin secretion rate and glucagon concentrations were lowered similarly during IGEI and IVEI. FGF21 concentrations increased dramatically (nine-fold) and similarly during IGEI and IVEI.
Alcohol does not seem to affect the secretion of incretin hormones but decreased insulin and glucagon secretion independently of gut-derived factors. IGEI as well as IVEI potently stimulate FGF21 secretion indicating a gut-independent effect of alcohol on FGF21 secretion in humans.