1. Serum lipid and apolipoprotein levels, distribution and composition of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) sub-fractions and lecithin:cholesterol acryltransferase activity were analysed in nine normolipidaemic subjects, in whom a hypertriglyceridaemic state was induced by the acute administration of ethanol (40 g) plus fat (70 g) or of fat only.

2. Triglyceride (TG) levels increased by 180% 4–6 h after fat plus ethanol intake, the hypertriglyceridaemic response being inversely correlated with the basal HDL2 mass (r = −0.82). Serum apolipoprotein (apo) B levels rose by 8%, HDL–cholesterol decreased by 10% and HDL–TG increased by 57% at 6–8 h.

3. When ethanol was omitted, serum cholesterol and TG rose by 6% and 70%, respectively; both apo AI and apo B levels went up by 8%, whereas HDL-cholesterol rose progressively (15%) at 12 h.

4. The flotation rates of both HDL2 and HDL, increased, reaching a maximum 6–8 h after ethanol plus fat intake. These changes were due to an increase in TG and phospholipid contents, whereas cholesteryl esters and proteins decreased.

5. The alterations in HDL are attributable to the increase in TG-rich lipoproteins, to the stimulated cholesterol esterification (+ 15%) and to an enhanced transfer of newly formed cholesteryl esters to apo-B-containing lipoproteins in exchange for TG.

6. Changes in HDL properties were evident only when ethanol was given concomitantly with fat.

7. These findings suggest that in the postprandial phase lipoprotein changes may occur, which facilitate an improved removal of cholesterol from tissues.

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