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Research Summary

Alcohol Use Decreases the Risk of Renal Dysfunction in Healthy Men

Using data from the Physicians' Health Study, researchers assessed whether alcohol use can affect the risk of renal dysfunction. They examined baseline alcohol intake and renal function (creatinine levels and glomerular filtration rates [GFR]) in 11,023 initially healthy men and re-measured renal function 14 years later. Analyses were adjusted for potential confounders (e.g., age, body mass index, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease).

  • At baseline, 75% of subjects consumed <7 drinks per week.
  • At follow-up, 4% had elevated creatinine (>=1.5 mg/dL) and 12% had reduced GFR (<=55 mL/min).
  • Subjects who drank >=5 drinks per week at baseline had lower odds of elevated creatinine than did those who drank less (odds ratios 1.0 for 2-4 drinks, 0.88 for 5-6 drinks, and 0.75 for >=7 drinks; P for trend=0.03).
  • Similarly, subjects who drank >=5 drinks per week had lower odds of reduced GFR (odds ratios 1.01 for 2-4 drinks, 0.77 for 5-6 drinks, and 0.75 for >=7drinks; P for trend=0.001).


Over 14 years, the risk of renal dysfunction in initially healthy men decreased in a graded manner with increasing alcohol consumption. These findings raise the intriguing possibility, which requires further study, that moderate alcohol use may protect the kidneys through the same possible mechanisms as it protects the cardiovascular system. Importantly, this research does not change the current lower-risk drinking recommendation of no more than 2 drinks per day on average for men.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD
Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc


Schaeffner ES, Kurth T, de Jong PE, et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of renal dysfunction in apparently healthy men. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:1048-1053.