Dunn W et al. (2008) Modest wine drinking and decreased prevalence of suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepatology 47: 1947–1954

Evidence of the cardioprotective effect of moderate wine consumption has led some clinicians to recommend such consumption to patients at risk of coronary heart disease. However, as these patients are also at risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is the recommendation safe? To find out, Dunn et al. tested the hypothesis that moderate wine drinking is associated with a reduced prevalence of NAFLD.

The cross-sectional, population-based study included participants of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who were nondrinkers (n = 7,211) or who drank wine preferentially with a total alcohol consumption of up to 10 g per day (n = 945). After exclusion of individuals with other causes of serum alanine aminotranferase (ALT) elevation, well-known ALT cutoff values were used to designate suspected NAFLD: ALT >43 U/l or >30 U/l (for men) and ALT >19 U/l (for women).

Moderate wine drinking was independently associated with a reduced prevalence of suspected NAFLD in a multivariate analysis that adjusted for social, demographic and lifestyle variables (adjusted odds ratios 0.15 and 0.51 for the higher and lower men's ALT cutoff values, respectively). Although moderate wine drinkers had fewer metabolic abnormalities than nondrinkers, analysis revealed that the protective effect of moderate wine drinking was independent of these variables.

The findings suggest that it is safe to drink up to one small glass of wine per day for cardioprotection and that this consumption might also protect against NAFLD. However, the researchers call for prospective studies to evaluate the full effect of moderate wine drinking on the liver.