Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated With Less Cirrhosis

Alcohol is bad for your liver, we’re told. However, moderate amounts may be good for your liver. A recent meta-analysis found that men who drank moderate amounts of alcohol had considerably less risk (a risk ratio of 0.3) of liver cirrhosis than men who drank no alcohol.  It wasn’t clear if some forms of alcohol (e.g., wine) were more protective than others. I came across this study because another article called the association “biologically implausible”, whereas I think it is highly plausible due to vast experimental literature on hormesis (animals given small amounts of poisons are healthier than animals given none).

The findings about cirrhosis join a much large body of evidence that moderate drinking is associated with less heart disease.  A recent meta-analysis reached this conclusion once again and found, in addition, that moderate drinking is associated with less all-cause mortality.

These are more examples of the health benefits of fermented foods, one of my favorite subjects. It is unfortunate the liquor industry does not run long-term human experiments on the effects of moderate amounts of beer, wine, and so on.


10 Replies to “Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated With Less Cirrhosis”

  1. As I understand it, there is substantial evidence that people who consume a lot of alcohol also exercise substantially more than people who don’t. This is certainly true among people I know…. Perhaps it’s a matter of compensation.
    “Michael French, a health economics professor at the University of Miami, and his colleagues dug into data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a yearly telephone survey of roughly 230,000 Americans, and found a surprisingly strong positive correlation between the levels of alcohol intake and exercise. For both men and women, those who drank at least some alcohol exercised 7.2 minutes more per week than non-drinkers.

    While that may not seem like much, the study showed that the more booze, the more minutes spent sweating. Light, moderate, and heavy drinkers worked out 5.7, 10.1 and 19.9 minutes more per week, respectively. Also, drinking resulted in a 10.1 percent increase in the probability of vigorous physical activity.”

    Perhaps this confound has to be integrated into any analysis of the putative health benefits of alcohol…

    Seth: A surprising correlation.

  2. I think the associations beg a question: What are the alcohol drinkers “not eating” because they are consuming a glass or wine or other spirits? Maybe those not drinking alcohol are replacing it with an extra large serving of ice cream.

    Seth: Yes, associations always raise the question of what is causing them.

  3. “Paul Jaminet has posted…”

    The guy is awesome. His book is fantastic. And no, I am not Paul Jaminet nor associated with him in any way other than being a fan.

  4. …found a surprisingly strong positive correlation between the levels of alcohol intake and exercise.

    Seth: A surprising correlation.

    I think they’re just talking about what young people do.

    I bet young people socialize more, drink more, and exercise more.

    They probably get laid more, too. 🙂

  5. My interpretation of this:

    Moderate drinking signifies conscientiousness.

    High conscientiousness is one of the BEST predictors of longevity.

    Seth: Interesting idea. Why are people who drink moderately more conscientious than those who don’t drink at all? That puzzles me. I suppose I’m an example of the correlation in the sense that I am more conscientious than average and I drink moderately. But I see no connection between the two. I’m not saying there isn’t a connection, just that I don’t see it.

  6. Yet another possibility from the strong correlation between heavy drinking and exercising; both can be addictive. Perhaps individuals more prone to addiction are more prone to comorbid (multiple) addictions, such as drinking, endurance exercise (for the runners high), gamboling, smoking, sugar, etc.

    Seth: Good point. There is certainly something to the concept of an addictive personality.

  7. Seth wrote: “Why are people who drink moderately more conscientious than those who don’t drink at all? That puzzles me.”

    Possibly because (some) people who don’t drink at all used to drink excessively and had to give it up after getting themselves into trouble.

  8. Hi Seth, What Alex said. Someone who can regularly eat just 10 potatoe chips or have just one glass of wine, are people who know they can touch these things without overindulging. Someone who abstains entirely may also have good discipline, but they may not, and that’s why they avoid it all together. So that cohort is a mixture of high and low conscientiousness. But the cohort who can cut themselves off doesn’t include people with low high conscientiousness.

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