Some alcohol may benefit liver, animal study suggests
From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
November 8, 1999
Web posted at: 3:05 p.m. EST (2005 GMT)
DALLAS (CNN) -- Liver specialists meeting in Dallas heard surprising results from an animal study recently, showing that light alcohol consumption seemed to speed the recovery of damaged livers in rats.
And if the results can be extrapolated to humans, researcher Dr. Gerald Minuk of the University of Manitoba said, they "cause us to revisit what we are advising our patients who are interested in having one to two drinks per day but who are concerned about what effects that might have on the liver."
The research was presented at the meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease.
In the study, scientists divided 86 rats, who had a portion of their livers surgically removed, into four groups. The group receiving high concentrations of alcohol showed inhibition of liver repair, as expected. The moderate consumption group, and the control group, which got water, showed neither bad nor good effects on the liver.
But interestingly, the light consumption group had a more rapid recovery and an increase in liver repair. Researchers speculate that small amounts of alcohol may activate some protective genes.
Minuk's research was funded by the Medical Research Council of Canada and the University of Manitoba.
Alcohol and the heart
If light alcohol consumption is proven beneficial for the liver, liver specialists and heart doctors could eventually offer similar guidance on drinking.
Preventative cardiologist Dr. Lawrence Sperling of Emory University said some studies have shown a beneficial role for limited alcohol consumption in heart health. "I think there is evidence to tell us that a small amount of alcohol, maybe one drink a day, can protect individuals from heart disease and stroke," he said.
Over the past several years, studies have suggested that red wine and the flavonoids found in dark beer can boost levels of good cholesterol and prevent blood clotting. Still, most doctors are reluctant to recommend alcohol.
And both heart and liver specialists agree that there would be no benefit to saving up alcohol points and bingeing on the weekend. They say these studies should not be used as an excuse to drink excessively.
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American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
The University of Manitoba - UMinfo
Schools and Faculty
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
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