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Red Wine and Fatty Liver


The potential health benefits of drinking a daily glass of red wine now include fatty liver disease prevention. However, alcohol’s risk for inflaming liver disease prohibits endorsement of this experimental strategy.

The most common liver disease in the U.S., non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is suspected to affect one in every four American adults. Likely related to our society’s increasing obesity rate, the medical establishment is frantically searching for ways to help prevent and treat the buildup of fat in the liver. While not yet proven in humans, animal studies have shown an interesting paradox. Despite chronic alcohol use’s clearly defined promotion of fatty liver disease, an ingredient in red wine may be the substance that researchers studying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have been looking for.

An antioxidant known for its presence in the skin of red grapes, resveratrol is generating a lot of interest for its potential benefits for fatty liver disease. After identifying reservatrol’s presence in red wine, scientists began exploring if this compound might be responsible for the low rate of cardiovascular disease in the French, despite their diet renowned for excessively rich, fatty foods. Although there is some evidence that resveratrol may benefit heart disease by reducing blood clot formation, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine to gain these potential benefits.

Resveratrol is found in grapes, wine, grape juice, peanuts and berries of Vaccinum species, including blueberries, bilberries and cranberries. In grapes, resveratrol is found only in the skins with the amount dependant on the following variables:

·    The grape cultivar
·    The geographic origin
·    The exposure to fungal infection
·    For wine, the amount of fermentation time spent in contact with the grape skins

Since the amount of resveratrol can vary in food and beverages, the following amounts of this antioxidant in different items are an approximation:

·    5 ounce glass of Spanish red wine = .29 – 1.89 mg resveratrol
·    5 ounce glass of global red wine = .30 – 1.07 mg resveratrol
·    5 ounce glass of Spanish red grape juice = .17 – 1.30 mg resveratrol
·    1 cup of raw peanuts = .01 – .26 mg resveratrol
·    1 cup boiled peanuts = .32 – 1.28 mg resveratrol
·    1 cup peanut butter = .04 – .13 mg resveratrol
·    1 cup red grapes = .24 – 1.25 mg resveratrol

Several studies have recently shown that resveratrol may help prevent damage from fatty liver disease.

1.    Published in the October 2008 edition of The American Journal of Physiology –Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, researchers from South Florida found that resveratrol activated two signaling molecules that regulate the pathway of hepatic lipid metabolism in animals. Although this study was not conducted on humans, the investigators concluded that resveratrol may serve as a promising agent for preventing or treating human alcoholic fatty liver disease.

2.    Published in the September 2008 edition of BMC Gastroenterology, Spanish researchers investigated whether resveratrol decreased liver damage in animals with fatty liver disease. While not necessarily indicative of its impact in humans, the investigators concluded that, in rats, resveratrol decreased non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

3.    Published in the August 2008 edition of the Chinese Journal of Hepatology, Chinese researchers studied the effect of resveratrol on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Although this study was also done on animals, the researchers discovered that administering resveratrol improved fatty liver and insulin resistance for rats fed a high fat diet.

While the results from these three studies collectively suggest that resveratrol can protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, there is insufficient evidence to suggest this relationship also applies to humans. Besides the lack of human trials, there is no agreed upon recommended dosage of resveratrol to protect against a fatty liver. In addition, the debate over whether red wine is an acceptable source of this antioxidant for people with liver concerns is still raging. Therefore, until the experts condone a daily glass of red wine to prevent fatty liver disease – munching on red grapes, boiled peanuts or sipping grape juice could help prevent fatty liver disease – without any of alcohol’s associated risks.

Editor’s Note: Since a daily glass of red wine may cause more damage to the liver of someone with liver disease than good, choose a safe and proven route to protect yourself from fatty liver disease. As proven in a 2006 Czech Republic study, supplementing with milk thistle inhibits cholesterol absorption and may reduce the liver’s fat content. By choosing UltraThistle, the most potent and absorbable form of milk thistle available, you can help protect your liver from the dangers of fat accumulation. As always, it’s a good idea to discuss any new health care regimen with your chosen doctor., Alcohol, Wine
and Cardiovascular Disease, Retrieved October 27, 2008, American Heart Association, 2008., Resveratrol May Help Treat Fatty Liver,
Kelley Colihan, Retrieved October 26, 2008,, October 2008., Resveratrol,
Retrieved October 26, 2008, Linus Pauling Institute, 2008.
_RVDocSum, Resveratrol improves high-fat induced nonalcoholic fatty liver in rats, Shang J, et al, Retrieved October 26, 2008, Chinese Journal of Hepatology, August 2008.
RVDocSum, Resveratrol alleviates alcoholic fatty liver in mice, Ajmo JM, et al, Retrieved October 26, 2008, American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, October 2008.
RVDocSum, Resveratrol inhibits nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in rats, Bujanda
L, et al, Retrieved October 26, 2008, BMC Gastroenterology, September 2008.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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