Light Drinking May
Help Regenerate Liver
By Marcus Kabel

DALLAS (Reuters) - Social drinking may actually be good for your liver rather than damaging, according to preliminary results of new research on rats presented Monday.
The study found that the equivalent of one or two drinks a day appeared to help the damaged livers of lab rats repair themselves, according to a paper by Dr. Gerald Minuk of the University of Manitoba, Canada.
``This finding raises the possibility that 'social drinking' may not have an adverse effect on the natural history of acute or chronic liver disease,'' Minuk wrote in a summary of his report to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) in Dallas.
Heavy alcohol use by the rats hindered the liver's ability to recover from damage, as expected, while moderate alcohol use appeared to have a neutral effect, according to the study.
The findings are preliminary and may not translate from rats to humans, Minuk cautioned.
``As liver disease specialists, we certainly don't want to provide the population with an excuse to abuse alcohol or somehow damage their health,'' he told Reuters by telephone from his Manitoba office.
But if the results are found to apply to humans, Minuk said, it could mean that ``in certain clinical conditions where patients do not have alcohol abuse problems, one or two drinks per day of alcohol might be considered beneficial rather than harmful to the liver.''
Alcohol abuse has long been known as a cause of liver damage and disease, such as cirrhosis.
Minuk said his group launched the research because of the resurgence of moderate drinking based on widely publicized studies that suggest a daily glass or two of wine can help prevent heart disease and strokes.
Researchers had not previously studied what health effects this moderate drinking can have on the liver, which is where the body metabolizes alcohol, Minuk said.
In their study, Minuk's group tested the effects of heavy, moderate and light alcohol consumption on rats that had had 70 percent of their livers surgically removed.
They found a partial regeneration of the liver in the rats that consumed light amounts of alcohol, roughly the equivalent of one or two drinks a day for a human.
Moderate alcohol consumption, about the same as two to three drinks a day, appeared to have no effect either way while heavy drinking equivalent to four drinks or more a day inhibited liver repair in the rats.