Urinary Ethyl Glucuronide Can Be Used as a Biomarker of Habitual Alcohol Consumption in the General Population
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BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption is a frequently studied risk factor for chronic diseases, but many studies are hampered by self-report of alcohol consumption. The urinary metabolite ethyl glucuronide (EtG), reflecting alcohol consumption during the past 72 h, is a promising objective marker, but population data are lacking. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess the reliability of EtG as a marker for habitual alcohol consumption compared with self-report and other biomarkers in the general population. METHODS: Among 6211 participants in the Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-Stage Disease (PREVEND) cohort, EtG concentrations were measured in 24-h urine samples. EtG was considered positive when concentrations were ≥100 ng/mL. Habitual alcohol consumption was self-reported by questionnaire (categories: no/almost never, 1-4 units per month, 2-7 units per week, 1-3 units per day or ≥4 units per day). Plasma HDL cholesterol concentration, erythrocyte mean corpuscular volume (MCV), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) were determined as indirect biomarkers of alcohol consumption. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, and proportions of agreement between reported consumption and EtG were calculated. To test the agreement of EtG concentration and alcohol consumption in categories, linear regression analysis was performed. In addition, the association between EtG concentrations and indirect biomarkers was analyzed. RESULTS: Mean age was 53.7 y, and 52.9% of participants men. Of the self-reported abstainers, 92.3% had an EtG concentration <100 ng/mL. Sensitivity was 66.3%, positive predictive value was 96.3%, and negative predictive value was 47.4%. The proportion of positive agreement was 78.5%, and the proportion of negative agreement was 62.7%. EtG concentrations were linearly associated with higher categories of alcohol consumption (P-trend < 0.001), adjusted for age, sex, and renal function. EtG was positively related to MCV, HDL cholesterol, and GGT but not to AST and ALT concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that urinary EtG is in reasonable agreement with self-reported alcohol consumption and therefore can be used as an objective marker of habitual alcohol consumption in the general population.