Changes in blood metabolite profile are visible years before diagnosis of alcohol-related disease

October 19, 2020

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland is the first in the world to show that the serum metabolite profile can be used to identify individuals likely at risk of developing an alcohol-related disease in the future. The finding also opens up new avenues for preventing alcohol-related adverse effects. The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Alcohol is the cause underlying many severe diseases, such as alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis and different types of cancer. It is estimated that alcohol accounts for approximately five per cent of the global burden of disease, and the WHO has listed the reduction of excessive consumption of alcohol as one of its most important priorities.

"However, it is challenging to identify individuals most in need of an intervention, i.e., people who will go on to develop an alcohol-related disease," Senior Researcher Olli Kärkkäinen says.

The new study from the University of Eastern Finland discovered that changes in the serum metabolite profile are visible years before an individual is diagnosed with an alcohol-related disease. The researchers used metabolomics methods to analyse serum samples collected from middle-aged Finnish men in the 1980s as part of a prospective study focusing on risk factors of coronary artery disease. They analysed baseline serum samples from individuals who were diagnosed with an alcohol-related disease in the course of a 30-year a follow-up. On average, the diagnosis was made 13.6 years after the sample was taken. The study had two control groups: one group consisted of individuals whose consumption of alcohol at baseline was equally heavy, but who were not diagnosed with an alcohol-related disease later on. The other control group consisted of individuals whose consumption of alcohol at baseline was moderate, allowing the researchers to analyse alcohol-related changes.

There were significant differences in the groups' serum metabolite profiles. After controlling for self?reported alcohol use and gamma?glutamyl transferase levels, which is a biomarker of alcohol use, the researchers found that individuals who would later develop an alcohol-related disease had significantly lower serum levels of serotonin and asparagine than individuals in the control groups.

"Serotonin is an important mediator that regulates the function of the nervous system, and lower levels of asparagine may be related to an increased risk of alcohol-induced organ damage," Senior Researcher Kärkkäinen says.

Heavy alcohol use in itself was associated with considerable changes in the blood metabolite profile, e.g., in the levels of amino acids, steroid hormones and fatty acids.

"Our study is the first to show that the serum metabolite profile could be used to identify, already in advance, individuals who are likely to develop an alcohol-related disease in the future. This would have far-reaching consequences: if we can identify these individuals sufficiently early, we can target preventive measures at them. Successful prevention of alcohol-related adverse effects and diseases is highly significant both on the individual and societal levels," Senior Researcher Kärkkäinen says.

A limitation of the study is that it only analysed middle-aged Finnish men who belonged to a risk group for alcohol-related diseases.

"Future research should focus on analysing whether these findings can be generalised to other population groups, including women, younger people and people who are not Finnish," Senior Researcher Kärkkäinen says.
For further information, please contact:

Senior Researcher Olli Kärkkäinen,, tel. +358503718309

Research article:

Changes in Circulating Metabolome Precede Alcohol-Related Diseases in Middle-Aged Men: A Prospective Population-Based Study with a 30-Year Follow-Up
Olli Kärkkäinen, Anton Klåvus, Ari Voutilainen, Jyrki Virtanen, Marko Lehtonen, Seppo Auriola, Jussi Kauhanen, Jaana Rysä
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, in press,

University of Eastern Finland

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to