THURSDAY, May 29, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- One glass of wine a day may not only be safe for the liver, but may actually reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to a new study that challenges conventional wisdom.
The population-based study, from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, included 7,211 nondrinkers and 4,543 modest alcohol drinkers (an average of four ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or one ounce of liquor per day) found that those who drank one glass of wine a day had half the risk of suspected NAFLD compared to nondrinkers.
But people who reported modest consumption of beer or liquor had more than four times the risk of having suspected NAFLD than those who drank wine.
The study was published in the June issue of Hepatology.
"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," Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, an associate professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition in the department of pediatrics, and director of the fatty liver clinic at Rady Children's Hospital San Diego, said in a prepared statement.
There was no evidence that drinking larger amounts of wine offered added protection. Schwimmer and his colleagues emphasized that "people at risk for alcohol abuse should not consider consuming wine or any other alcoholic beverage."
"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 the wine," Schwimmer said.
NAFLD affects more than 40 million adults in the United States and is the most common liver disease in the country, according to background information in the study. As many as 5 percent of adults with NAFLD will develop cirrhosis. Major risk factors for NAFLD include obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides and high blood pressure.
The British Liver Trust has more about fatty liver.