Wine Causes Liver Damage, Too

French Study Disputes Notion of Lower Cirrhosis Risk

Nov. 11, 2002 -- Wine may have other health benefits, but drinking too much of it can still put your liver at risk. A new study casts doubt over an earlier one suggesting that wine was less harmful to the liver than other spirits.

Earlier this year, a Danish study showed that wine drinkers were 70% less likely to develop cirrhosis than those who drank beer or liquor. Researchers said they thought that wine's antioxidant properties might somehow work to reduce the ill effects on the liver caused by the beverage's alcohol content.

But when French researchers tried to replicate those findings, they came up with very different results. Their study appears in the November/December issue of Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Cirrhosis is a potentially life-threatening condition that happens when scarring damages the liver and prevents it from working normally. Most cases of cirrhosis are caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

In the study, Stéphanie Pelletier of the Service d'Hépatogastroentérologie et Acoologie in Nîmes, France, and colleagues looked at 42 patients with cirrhosis and 60 healthy individuals. All of the participants were asked about their drinking habits and the type of alcohol they consumed, and researchers also evaluated their liver health.

In comparing the two groups, researchers did not find any significant differences in the amount of total alcohol consumption. In fact, the relative percentage of pure alcohol consumed from wine was significantly higher in patients with cirrhosis compared with those with healthy livers.

Researchers say their findings "confirm the absence of a link between the type of alcoholic beverage and the occurrence of cirrhosis is still valid."

Source: Alcohol and Alcoholism, November/December 2002.