In Heavy Drinkers Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters in the Serum Are Increased for 44 hr After Ethanol Consumption

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Fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) have been proposed as a marker of ethanol consumption because they can be detected for up to 24 hr after a moderate intake of ethanol, even though blood ethanol remains increased for only 8 hr. Therefore, this study investigated whether FAEEs can be found during a time period exceeding 24 hr in a group of patients who were hospitalized for ethanol detoxification. A second aim was to study the distribution of FAEEs between lipoproteins during that time.


Serum samples of 12 patients with acute ethanol intoxication were assayed for FAEEs. Blood samples were drawn 8.2, 20.2, 32.2, and 44.2 hr after hospitalization. FAEEs were quantified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.


Ethanol was no longer detectable after 20.2 hr from hospitalization, whereas FAEEs were still found after 32.2 and 44.2 hr. These late FAEEs were significantly higher than the FAEEs in 15 different healthy men who had abstained from ethanol for 4.5 days (p < 0.001 and p = 0.001). FAEEs were associated mainly with lipid-free serum but tended to accumulate in very-low-density lipoprotein in patients with moderate hypertriglyceridemia.


In heavy drinkers, the FAEEs were increased after ethanol consumption for at least 44 hr. It remains to be studied whether they originate from a single ethanol intake or, in addition, from a slow release out of body storage compartments.

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