Warnings about high alcohol consumption are nothing new; they’ve been handed down from generation to generation. In the United States alone, 27,000 people die every year from cirrhosis of the liver; however, a national team of scientists have made an interesting discovery about modest alcohol consumption (considered to be two drinks or less per day). They say they’ve determined it can in fact lower your risk of liver disease.
A Preventative for Liver Disease?
Alcohol as a preventative tool for liver disease sounds outrageous, but the researchers were curious about the effect of modest alcohol on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Also referred to as NAFLD, it is the most common liver disease in North America. Those who suffer from it have a much higher risk of cirrosis and liver cancer. It is also known as a risk factor for heart disease.
During the study involving liver disease participants, the scientists discovered what they call “compelling” evidence that modest alcohol consumption reduced the chances of the patients developing more severe forms of NAFLD. They reported the risk was cut in half. They admit that they can’t fully explain why alcohol acts as a preventative measure, yet they speculate it has something to do with the beneficial impact that alcohol can have on lipid levels, as well as the fact that alcohol can increase good cholesterol. Good cholesterol tends to be low in people who suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Potential Anti-Inflammatory Effect on the Liver
Like most liver diseases, NAFLD sufferers experience inflammation. The immune system can’t seem to overcome pro-inflammatory action within the liver. Numerous studies in the United States and Europe have touched on the notion that modest alcohol can be a preventative tool when it comes to inflammation. Tests on both lab mice and humans have shown that one to two drinks a day can have an anti-inflammatory impact on the liver.
When people think of liver disease, the word cirrhosis comes to mind; however, according to the American Liver Foundation there are close to 100 different liver diseases. In most cases the liver attempts to repair itself, but the immune system is compromised and that makes it difficult for the organ to recover from damage, especially if it is self-inflicted. The vast majority of NAFLD cases are caused by poor diet. This type of liver disease tends to develop in people, who are overweight, obese, have high cholesterol or who suffer from diabetes. In some cases there are no symptoms, but in other cases people experience fatigue, nausea, jaundice, itching, abdominal pain and even fluid buildup in their legs.
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What Does This Have to Do With Liver Disease?
The notion that moderate amounts of alcohol could lower the risk of liver disease comes as a surprise to those who have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. They have always thought avoiding alcohol would be a good preventative step, but now the old saying, “everything in moderation” comes into play.
The researchers involved in the national liver disease study are encouraged by their findings, but realize more investigation will take place. Meanwhile, those who specialize in the treatment of liver disease continue to advise patients to strengthen their immune system, eat healthy and exercise regularly.