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Obesity Greater Risk for Fatty Liver Than Alcohol, Study Finds

THURSDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity and insulin resistance constitute a greater risk for fatty liver disease than moderate alcohol consumption, according to a new study that found drinking modest amounts of red wine posed no greater risk for developing the condition.

For their study, published online May 23 in Annals of Medicine, Swedish researchers instructed 44 people to either abstain from alcohol or drink one (women) or two (men) glasses of red wine a day for three months. At the beginning and end of the three months, the investigators collected blood samples and conducted MRIs to measure the fatty content of participants' livers.

"It turned out that the amount of fat in the liver was linked with obesity and insulin resistance and was almost not at all affected by the red wine. Specifically, after three months, none of the wine drinkers had developed fatty liver or elevated liver transaminases," Dr. Stergios Kechagias, a liver specialist at Linkoping University, said in a news release from the Swedish Research Council.

Moreover, the study found a 16 percent decrease in levels of harmful LDL cholesterol among those who drank the red wine. "There is a strong correlation between moderate intake of alcohol and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, and our data provides a mechanism for this since LDL cholesterol was lowered to such a large extent," Dr. Fredrik Nystrom, a professor at Linkoping, concluded in the news release.

Because it's known that large amounts of alcohol contribute to liver disease, it was long thought that even moderate consumption might have a harmful effect.

Fatty liver, which is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, the researchers noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more information on fatty liver disease.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Swedish Research Council, news release, May 30, 2011

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