AIMS: Subjects with chronic alcohol abuse can present several metabolic and nutritional alterations. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may play a role in these nutritional and metabolic disorders. The goal of this study was to investigate if there is any relationship between HP-hormones and metabolic and nutritional parameters in alcoholic subjects. METHODS: Sixteen alcoholics were considered before and after 3 months of total alcohol abstinence. HP-related hormones were determined. Nutritional and metabolic parameters were assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and indirect calorimetry. RESULTS: At baseline, a significant negative correlation was found between fat mass (FM) and cortisol (r = -0.54, P = 0.03). During abstinence, a significant increase of both body mass index (BMI) (P < 0.0001) and FM (P < 0.0001) was found at 12 weeks compared to baseline. A significant decrease of both plasma cortisol (P = 0.044) and aldosterone (P = 0.023) was found at 12 weeks compared to baseline. At 12 weeks, the significant correlation between cortisol and FM disappeared. CONCLUSIONS: A higher HPA-axis activation-reflected by higher cortisol levels-was associated with a lower FM in alcoholics. Conversely, during total abstinence a reduced HPA-axis activity can play a role in the parallel nutritional recovery. The present results suggest a role of the HPA axis throughout cortisol both in the etiology of the alcohol-related nutritional alterations and in their recovery after a period of total alcohol abstinence.
- ALCOHOL ABUSE