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Research Summary

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Might Worsen Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) has a widely variable prognosis and often occurs in people in whom moderate drinking has shown benefits in observational studies (e.g., those with diabetes or hyperlipidemia). The effects of moderate drinking on NASH are not known in humans. To gain a preliminary understanding of potential effects, investigators induced NASH in 20 rats via 6 weeks of high-fat diet, then continued that diet for 4 additional weeks in 10 of the rats and modified it in the remaining 10 by replacing 16% of calories from dextrin maltose with alcohol.

  • After 4 weeks, the ratio of liver to body weight was significantly higher in the alcohol-fed rats. They also had more hepatic inflammatory foci and apoptotic hepatocytes.

Comments:

Alcohol had a deleterious effect on NASH in rats in this study. Although the amount of alcohol given is described as the equivalent of moderate drinking in humans, it was closer to just over 3 drinks a day, which is considered excessive by US guidelines. No experiments in humans are available to tell us the effect of more moderate use on NASH. Nonetheless, the findings raise the concern that alcohol may also be harmful for people with NASH. Richard Saitz , MD, MPH

Reference:

Wang Y, Seitz HK, Wang XD. Moderate alcohol consumption aggravates high-fat diet induced steatohepatitis in rats. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010;34(3): 567–73.

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