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A Drink A Day May Help Protect Kidneys

But researchers say the finding shouldn't encourage heavy alcohol use

TUESDAY, May 10, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that runs counter to conventional wisdom, researchers have found that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol -- about one drink a day -- may prevent kidney function decline in men.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, stressed, however, that the finding does not mean individuals should take up drinking -- especially heavy drinking -- as a means of protecting their kidneys.

In their study, published in the May 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers examined patient blood samples and questionnaires collected from more than 11,000 men enrolled in the ongoing Physicians' Health Study.

They found that men who consumed at least seven drinks per week were at a 30 percent lower risk of elevated levels of a compound called creatinine in the blood, compared to men who had one or no drinks per week. High blood creatinine levels are a strong indiator of kidney dysfunction.

"In previous studies, moderate alcohol consumption has been consistently associated with beneficial health effects on cardiovascular disease, however, the association between alcohol consumption and renal dysfunction was less clear, and most studies found a harmful effect on the kidneys," Dr. Tobias Kurth, a researcher in the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

"This is the first study to show a consistent reduction in the risk of chronic kidney disease with light to moderate drinking. Given the new findings that traditional cardiovascular risk factors are associated with kidney disease, the data is not surprising. This study may be broadening our knowledge of alcohol and disease prevention," Kurth said.

He noted this study only included data from healthy men and that more research is needed in this area to confirm the findings, especially for women and sicker individuals.

More information

The National Kidney Disease Education Program offers advice on how to protect your kidneys.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, May 9, 2005
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