Comparison of serum fatty acid ethyl esters and urinary 5-hydroxytryptophol as biochemical markers of recent ethanol consumption

Adam Bisaga, Michael Laposata, Shan Xie, Suzette M. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Aims: To examine the effects of an acute dose of ethanol on serum fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) concentration and urinary 5-hydroxytryptophol (5-HTOL)/5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA) ratio. Methods: Sixteen (14 male, 2 female) heavy alcohol drinkers were tested in a single, 2-day long session. Six participants received 1.5 g/l of ethanol/l of body water (∼0.75 g/kg of body weight, low dose group: LD) and 10 participants received 2.0 g/l of ethanol (∼1.0 g/kg of body weight, high dose group: HD) in four divided doses every 20 min. Blood, urine, and breath samples were collected repeatedly over 36 h following the ingestion of ethanol and were analyzed for the presence of FAEE, 5-HTOL/5-HIAA, and ethanol, respectively. Serum γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT), a marker of chronic ethanol use, was also included. Results: The breath ethanol level peaked ∼1 h after the last dose, at 95 and 120 mg/dl for the LD and HD groups, respectively. The mean ratio of urinary 5-HTOL/5-HIAA was significantly elevated 5 and 9 h after ethanol administration, but returned to baseline 13 h after ethanol administration. This ratio was twice as high for the HD group compared with the LD group. Serum levels of FAEEs were significantly elevated at 5 h, but not 13 h after ethanol administration. There were no time-dependent changes in serum GGT levels. Conclusions: Measuring the levels of FAEE and 5-HTOL/5-HIAA ratio provides a convenient method to detect recent, particularly binge-type, ethanol use, but these measures may have limited applicability in detecting ethanol use in traditional clinical trial settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-218
Number of pages5
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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