Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Progesterone may impair your drinking

Since we've been discussing questionable papers about weak correlations between drinking and strange variables, a tipster sent me this original piece of research linking sex hormones and ethanol elimination rates. My first shock was that kilo for kilo (of lean body mass), woman eliminate ethanol faster than man, which means that in theory they should "hold their alcohol" better. The reason for this remarkable feat is that woman have larger livers than man as a percentage of lean body mass. In fact the average liver size is not statistically different between women and men, despite the body size difference. but don't cheer too quickly, woman are more susceptible to alcoholic liver disease...

Now on to the paper in question. The study is from a German group, no surprise there. They got healthy volunteers:

"Forty-seven healthy men (average age 25 ± 6.1 years) and 61 healthy women (average age 24 ± 2.4 years) received 0.79–0.95 g of ethanol/kg body weight in the form of an alcohol beverage of their choice."

And then they measured sex hormones and followed blood ethanol kinetics:

"The mean hourly elimination rate (ß60) was 0.1677 ± 0.0311 g/kg/h in men. In women, the mean hourly elimination rate was 0.2044 ± 0.0414 g/kg/h in the high progesterone group and 0.1850 ± 0.0276 g/kg/h in the low progesterone group "

Now I'm not sure how the author went from this data to the conclusion that gender differences in kinetics are partially explained by progesterone, but I wouldn't mind being a study subject... So that I can brag about my high progesterone levels...