Drinking Alcohol and Risk of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in the developed world and affects about one-third of the total population of the United States.

NAFLD is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the major cause of death in developed countries around the world. It is also a major cause of hepatic dysfunction among children.

Researchers examined the effects of moderate drinking on non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or liver inflammation caused by a buildup of fat in the organ. The disease can get worse causing scarring of the liver and cirrhosis. NASH is a major characteristic or feature of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

An analysis of participants in the United States National Institute of Health's NASH Clinical Research Network who had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared lifelong non-drinkers to moderate drinkers. The results demonstrated that the risk of NASH dropped as the consumption of alcohol increased up to the highest levels of moderate consumption.

Moderate drinkers also had a significantly lower risk of suffering from fibrosis and as well as ballooning hepatocellular injury than lifetime alcohol abstainers.

It is important to know that people with NAFLD are much more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than of liver disease and that moderate drinking reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by almost half.

Note: This website is informational only. It does not make make any suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, liver disease, cardiovascular disease or any other subject and none should be inferred.

Resources

  • Dunn, W., et al. Modest alcohol intake is associated with less inflammation among patients with the most common type of liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Journal of Hepatology, 2012 (pre-publication release, 15 May 2012).

Readings and Resources on Drinking and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

  • Barshop, N.J., et al. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease as a comorbidity of childhood obesity al. Prevalence of hepatic steatosis in an urban population in the United States: impact of ethnicity. Hepatology, 2004, 40,1387–1395.
  • Dixon, J.B., et al. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: predictors of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and liver fibrosis in the severely obese. Gastroenterology, 2001, 121, 91–100.
  • Dunn, W., et al. Modest wine drinking and decreased prevalence of suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepatology, 200, 47, 1947-1954.
  • Hart, C.L., et al. Effect of body mass index and alcohol consumption on liver disease: analysis of data from two prospective cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 2010, 340, 1240-1245.
  • Lazo, M. and Clark, J.M. The epidemiology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A global perspective. Seminars on Liver Disease, 2008, 28, 339-350.
  • Szabo G. Moderate drinking, inflammation, and liver disease. Annals of Epidemiology, 2007, 17(Suppl.), S49-S54.

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