Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Effect of ethanol ingestion on plasma vasopressin and water balance in humans

G. Eisenhofer, R. H. Johnson


The effects of 75 ml ethanol ingested over 60 min on plasma osmolality (Posmol) and plasma vasopressin (PAVP) in four normal subjects were studied. In the 1st h of the investigation PAVP fell, then rose, even though plasma ethanol levels were still rising. The rise in PAVP was preceded by a rise in Posmol corrected for the influence of ethanol. The fall in PAVP was followed by an increase in free water clearance and a decrease in urine osmolality, while the later rise in PAVP was followed by a decrease in free water clearance (CH2O) and a rise in urine osmolality. The relationship between PAVP and Posmol was then studied during intravenous (iv) hypertonic saline infusion in five subjects. The results were compared with those from a second infusion in the same subjects after ingestion of ethanol (0.5 ml/kg). Ethanol reduced vasopressin release in response to iv hypertonic saline infusion, and this correlated with a reduced decrease in CH2O. We conclude that ethanol inhibits PAVP release by decreasing the response of the osmosodium receptors to changes in plasma tonicity.