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Diet and Nutrition

Alcohol/Serotonin

09/18/1998

Question:

What is the effect of alcohol on serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter which has been linked to mood, hunger, sleep, pain, and many other functions and behaviors?

Answer:

Many researchers are asking this and other questions about serotonin and its relationship with alcohol. Serotonin levels are being connected with enhancing or decreasing the desire for alcohol, as well as influencing food selection.

Alcohol exerts complex influences on brain metabolism. One of these results in a decrease in the brain concentration of serotonin. This decrease probably contributes to depression. AA Badawy, a researcher in the UK, suggests that "individuals susceptible to aggression after alcohol consumption exhibit a marked depletion of their brain serotonin. This makes them prone to aggression in response to either environmental or psychological stimuli or situations." And a study conducted in Japan by MH Pietraszek and colleagues reported that their results "strongly suggest that the mechanism of depression after alcohol drinking may be related to serotonin."

At this time, more studies need to be done to determine the effects of alcohol (and the quantity consumed) on serotonin levels and its effect on behavior.

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University