Wine and the risk of cirrhosis

alcohol and body

French research shows that excessive wine-drinking involves more rather than less risk of development of cirrhosis of the liver compared with other alcoholic beverages.

It is an established fact that alcohol abuse leads to cirrhosis of the liver. The substance damaging the liver cells is generally assumed to be alcohol. And yet 80% of heavy drinkers never contract the disease. So other factors must also be at work. For instance, women are more at risk than men, the undernourished more than the well-nourished.

The question is also often raised regarding possible differences between alcoholic beverages. Wine is said to reduce the risk of cirrhosis. Two arguments are put forward in support of this position. One: wine contains antioxidants which, in principle, are able to reduce the toxicity of alcohol for the liver. Two: death from cirrhosis is significantly lower in the winelands of the South of France than in the North.

Since publication of the results of the work of the French research team of specialists from Nimes and Narbonne, the arguments no longer “hold water”. The researchers compared the alcohol consumption of 42 male cirrhosis patients with a control group of men without cirrhosis. All subjects were asked about their drinking patterns throughout their lives so far, including their preferences for one or another kind of alcoholic drink. Since the 42 men were all inpatients voluntarily following a detoxification programme, their information may be expected to be reliable.

The findings show no significant difference between the two groups as regards alcohol consumption and, furthermore, that the percentage of wine-drinking was significantly higher for patients with cirrhosis of the liver than for the subjects in the control group.

Source: The Quarterly Review of Alcohol Research; 2003, Volume II, No. I


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