Moderate alcohol consumption after a mental stressor attenuates the endocrine stress response.Alcohol. 2016 12; 57:29-34.A
Alcohol is often consumed to reduce tension and improve mood when exposed to stressful situations. Previous studies showed that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce stress when alcohol is consumed prior to a stressor, but data on the effect of alcohol consumption after a mental stressor is limited. Therefore, our objective was to study whether moderate alcohol consumption immediately after a mental stressor attenuates the stress response. Twenty-four healthy men (age 21-40 y, BMI 18-27 kg/m2) participated in a placebo-controlled trial. They randomly consumed 2 cans (660 mL, ∼26 g alcohol) of beer or alcohol-free beer immediately after a mental stressor (Stroop task and Trier Social Stress Test). Physiological and immunological stress response was measured by monitoring heart rate and repeated measures of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis), white blood cells and a set of cytokines. After a mental stressor, cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) concentrations were 100% and 176% more reduced at 60 min (P = 0.012 and P = 0.001, respectively) and 92% and 60% more reduced at 90 min (P < 0.001 and P = 0.056, respectively) after beer consumption as compared to alcohol-free beer consumption. Heart rate and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) were not influenced by alcohol consumption. Plasma IL-8 concentrations remained lower during the stress recovery period after beer consumption than after alcohol-free beer consumption (P < 0.001). In conclusion, consumption of a moderate dose of alcohol after a mental stressor may facilitate recovery of the endocrine stress response as reflected by decreasing plasma ACTH and cortisol.