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Daily Glass of Wine Could Improve Liver Health E-mail
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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 (4) 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.

About Heart Disease

Heart disease is a broad term that includes several more specific heart conditions. These conditions include:
  • Arrhythmias. Irregular, or abnormally fast or slow, beating of the heart. The heart beat is controlled by electrical impulses. When the timing or frequency of these electrical impulses are disrupted, arrhythmias develop. Some arrhythmias are quite serious. An example is ventricular fibrillation, a severely abnormal heart rhythm that causes death unless treated right away by providing an electrical shock to the heart (called defibrillation). Others are less severe but can develop into more serious conditions over time. A particular concern is atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is rapid, irregular beating of the upper chambers of the heart. The chambers can quiver instead of beating in a regular pattern. Blood is not fully pumped out of them and may pool and clot.
  • Cardiomyopathy. A weakening of the heart muscle or a change in heart muscle structure. It often results in inadequate heart pumping or other heart function abnormalities. These can result from various causes, including prior heart attacks, viral or bacterial infections, and others.
  • Congenital Heart Disease. Malformations of heart structures, present during pregnancy or at birth. These may be caused by genetic factors or by adverse exposures during pregnancy. Examples include holes in the walls that divide the heart chambers, abnormal heart valves, and others. Congenital heart defects can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of major birth defect.
  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)/ Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD is the most common type of heart disease. CAD is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women. According to the American Heart Association, more than 15 million people have some form of the condition. Coronary artery disease is caused by any problem with the coronary arteries that keeps the heart from getting enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood. The most common cause is atherosclerosis which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries. This causes them to get narrow. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop The lack of sufficient blood is called ischemia, so coronary artery disease is sometimes called ischemic heart disease. The lack of blood flow can cause chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, irregular heart beats, called arrhythmias, and other symptoms.  Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure, a serious problem where the heart cannot pump blood the way that it should.
  • Heart Attack. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction may occur when blood supply to the heart is severely reduced or completely blocked. When blood flow is restricted the heart muscle cells do not receive enough oxygen and begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. This damage can cause irregular heart rhythms or even sudden cardiac arrest or stopping of the heart beat. Death can result. Coronary artery disease is the chief underlying cause of a heart attack. A less common cause of a heart attack is a severe spasm of a coronary artery that reduces the blood supply to the heart.
  • Heart Failure. This may also be called congestive heart failure or chronic heart failure. Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the needs of other body organs. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped, but that it cannot pump blood the way that it should. Heart failure is a serious condition. There is no cure for heart failure at this time, except a heart transplant. Once diagnosed, medicines are needed for the rest of the person's life. See our heart failure fact sheet.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. PAD is usually the result of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque and narrowing of the arteries. Blood flow and oxygen to the muscles in the arms and legs can be reduced or even fully blocked. Painful leg muscles, numbness, swelling in the ankles and feet, and weak pulse in the feet are some of the signs and symptoms of PAD.
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease. This condition is damage to the heart valves and other heart structures due to inflammation and scarring caused by rheumatic fever, which occurs from streptococcal infection. Heart disease is an umbrella term for a number of different diseases affecting the heart. Heart disease is a number of abnormal conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart.
 

 

 
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