A Modest Glass of Wine Each Day Could Improve Liver Health

May 21, 2008

Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine are challenging conventional thinking with a study showing that modest wine consumption, defined as one glass a day, may not only be safe for the liver, but may actually decrease the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

The study, which appears in the June 2008 issue of the journal Hepatology, showed that for individuals who reported drinking up to one glass of wine per day, as compared to no alcohol consumption, the risk of liver disease due to NAFLD was cut in half. In contrast, compared with wine drinkers, individuals who reported modest consumption of beer or liquor had over four times the odds of having suspected NAFLD.

NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults. Previous research has shown that as many as five percent of adults with NAFLD will develop cirrhosis. The major risk factors for NAFLD are similar to many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease—obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Multiple studies have shown that modest alcohol consumption may reduce the risk for heart disease. However, recommendations for modest alcohol consumption in individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease have overlooked that these same people are also at an increased risk for NAFLD. Thus, there exists a dilemma as to whether modest alcohol consumption for the heart is safe in regards to the liver. The UC San Diego investigators sought to clarify this important question.

“The results of this study present a paradigm shift, suggesting that modest wine consumption may not only be safe for the liver but may actually decrease the prevalence of NAFLD. The odds of having suspected NAFLD based upon abnormal liver blood tests was reduced by 50 percent in individuals who drank one glass of wine a day,” said Jeffrey Schwimmer, M.D., associate professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, UC San Diego School of Medicine and Director, Fatty Liver Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. The result remained constant, even after adjusting for age, sex, race, education, income, diet, physical activity, body mass index, and other markers of health status.

Research did not provide any support for drinking larger amounts. “We want to emphasize that people at risk for alcohol abuse should not consider consuming wine or any other alcoholic beverage,” said Schwimmer, who also pointed out that, although this is the first study to address this important dilemma, the findings do not address those who already have liver disease and should not be drinking alcohol at all.

“Because this effect was only seen with wine, not in beer or liquor, further studies will be needed to determine whether the benefits seen were due to the alcohol or non-alcohol components of wine,” added Schwimmer.

The cross-sectional, population-based study of nearly 12,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) included 7,211 nondrinkers and 4,543 modest alcohol drinkers. Modest alcohol consumption was defined as up to an average of one drink per day of either four ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or one ounce of liquor. NHANES is a large epidemiological survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The alcohol history was obtained by a trained interviewer, in a private room, to ensure confidentiality.

The study was funded in part with grants from the National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award (NIH NRSA) and from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health for the General Clinical Research Center at UC San Diego.

The research team included Schwimmer, Winston Dunn, M.D., division of gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, UC San Diego and Ronghui Xu, Ph.D., Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and Department of Mathematics, UC San Diego.

Source: University of California, San Diego

Explore further: Q&A: Is daily drinking problem drinking?

Related Stories

Q&A: Is daily drinking problem drinking?

February 21, 2018
Dear Mayo Clinic: Is it possible to become an alcoholic just by having one or two drinks nightly? I have a glass or two of wine with dinner but never drink to the point of feeling drunk. Should I be concerned?

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Why do people with East Asian heritage get flushed after drinking alcohol?

December 28, 2017
If your face goes red when drinking alcohol, you're not alone. More than one in three people with East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) experience facial flushing when drinking beer, wine or spirits.

What is kombucha and how do the health claims stack up?

January 24, 2018
The drink kombucha was previously only popular in hipster cafes, but is now vying for space on the supermarket shelves. Many claims are made about the health benefits of drinking kombucha, but what does the science say?

Alcoholic liver problems soar among young adults

December 5, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The number of hospital admissions for people in their early 30s with alcoholic liver disease has increased by more than 400% in the North East – the national increase stands at 61%.

Is drinking wine really good for your heart?

October 27, 2017
As the weekend approaches, people are opening wine bottles in bars and restaurants and homes around the world, ready to kick back and relax.

Recommended for you

Whether sustained or sporadic, exercise offers same reductions in death risk

March 22, 2018
For decades, Americans have been inundated with a confusing barrage of messages about how best to counteract the health risks of sedentary lifestyles: walk 10,000 steps a day; do a seven-minute workout from a phone app; flip ...

Tai chi as good as or better than aerobic exercise for managing chronic pain

March 21, 2018
The ancient martial art of tai chi has similar or greater benefits than aerobic exercise for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, finds a trial published by The BMJ today.

Study: Poor health is a less common cause of bankruptcy than commonly thought, but it brings other economic woes

March 21, 2018
A team of researchers led by an MIT economist has found that medical expenses account for roughly 4 percent of bankruptcy filings among nonelderly adults in the U.S.

Study finds bad sleep habits start early in school-age children

March 21, 2018
Bad sleep habits in children begin earlier than many experts assume. That's the takeaway from a new study led by McGill University researchers. The findings suggest that official sleep guidelines for young school children ...

Medical expansion has improved health—with one exception

March 21, 2018
While Americans debate the rising cost of health care, a new study of 30 countries over 27 years found that medical expansion has improved overall health - with one major exception.

Forgetting details, getting the gist may prompt false memories in older adults

March 21, 2018
Older adults often complain about forgetting, but Penn State psychologists suggest that another problem may be misremembering.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.