Research has found alcohol improves heart and liver function of NAFLD patients – is it true?
Known as an epidemic silent killer, non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) affects 25.2% of the global population. While it is clear that alcohol should be completely avoided for individuals with severe liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, currently there is no guideline in suggesting alcoholic use for patients with NAFLD.
Since more than one-third of the US adult population is affected by NAFLD and approximately two-thirds consume alcohol, one might wonder if moderate social drinking would cause any harm to individuals with NAFLD.
Alcohol benefits the heart and the liver?
As shown in a summary of the benefits of alcohol by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, modest amount of alcohol raises “good” cholesterol level in our body, which helps protect us against heart diseases. And with such a huge NAFLD patient population, there has been an increasing number of studies that discuss the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on liver health in individuals with NAFLD.
According to a critical review published in American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases which reviews 7 studies related to NAFLD and alcohol drinking, one of which suggested that there are cardiovascular benefits in patients with NAFLD who engage in moderate drinking. It was also found out that NAFLD patients who drink moderately have lower amount of carotid plaque and stenosis (the abnormal narrowing of blood vessel who could contribute to various heart diseases) compared with individuals who do not drink.
Regarding the alcohol’s effect on hepatic functions, it is suggested in several clinical studies that moderate alcohol use might actually help slow down or even reverse NASH and fibrosis.
So NAFLD patients should drink more, right?
Unfortunately Not. Despite the suggestion of the possible benefits of alcohol on hepatic health of patients of NALFD, there is still not enough evidence to provide a recommendation about whether moderate alcohol consumption is good or bad for individuals with NAFLD.
Factors like the lack of longitudinal study to see the long-term effect of alcohol on NAFLD patients’ hepatic health, limitations of the studies (selected population and sex-specific etc.), and the definition of moderate drinking affect the research results.
Until further studies and researches confirm that modest alcohol consumption is beneficial to NAFLD patients, individuals with NAFLD should try to avoid or limit their alcohol intake. Since alcohol causes the liver to inflame, protecting the liver from further inflammation is an effective way in managing NAFLD. When patients have to engage in social drinking, taking anti-inflammatory therapies could be useful in protecting the liver.
If you have any questions regarding how we can help protect your liver from the damage of alcohol, please do not hesitate to contact our support team for more information about liver protection.
- UC San Diego Health, https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2012-04-19-alcohol-consumption-lowers-liver-disease-risk.aspx, (Access Date: 2018-07-31)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766378/, (Access Date: 2018-07-31)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465604/, (Access Date: 2018-07-31)
- American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/hep.29055, (Access Date: 2018-07-31)
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/#possible_health_benefits, (Access Date: 2018-07-31)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.