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Moderate Drinking May Prevent Liver Disease

Researchers are surprised to find that one-to-two drinks a day could help people afflicted with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

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Looks like the liver is complicated.
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By Valerie Tejeda

04/20/12

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Common knowledge tells us alcohol and livers don't get along, but new research suggests a little drink a day can keep hepatitis away for those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD). The study—published in the online issue of The Journal of Hepatology—was led by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Researchers were surprised to find that participants (all 21 and older, of course) who consume modest amounts of alcohol—no more than one or two servings per day—can keep NALFD from progressing into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and on into full-blown cirrhosis. It could be good news for millions of Americans with NALFD.  “Our study showed that those people with modest alcohol intake—two drinks or less daily—had half the odds of developing NASH than people who drank no alcohol,” says senior study author Jeffrey Schwimmer, MD. “The reasons aren’t entirely clear.” Patients with NAFLD also experienced less severe liver scarring if they were moderate drinkers. Schwimmer suggests that even with such findings, doctors should consider their patients individually before suggesting any alcohol consumption. “For a patient with cirrhosis or viral hepatitis, the data says even small amounts of alcohol can be bad. But that may not be applicable to all forms of liver disease.” he said. “40 million Americans have NAFLD. Physicians need to look at their patient’s overall health, their CVD risk, their liver status, whether they’re already drinking modestly or not. They need to put all of these things into a framework to determine risk. I suspect modest alcohol consumption will be an appropriate recommendation for many patients, but clearly not all.”

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