Alcohol consumption is often negatively associated with health issues such as liver damage, nerve damage, and cardiovascular problems. While it’s true that heavy drinking can be dangerous, research has been surfacing over the years that suggests there are actually benefits to moderate alcohol consumption.
Most recently, a study conducted by Tapan Mehta, MD, and his colleagues at the University of Colorado-Denver found that a glass of wine every now and then can keep your kidneys healthy.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 26 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), often brought about by diabetes and high blood pressure. CKD can cause weak bones, nerve damage, anemia, and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, so this finding is good news in terms of possible prevention methods.
How much wine should you drink?
The study found that if you drink less than a glass of wine a day, you’re more likely to benefit from its positive effects. Mehta said there wasn’t enough data to determine the effects of drinking two glasses of wine a day.
Mehta and his team used data from a 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, which was given to 5,852 individuals. Of those, 1,031 suffered from CKD. They found that participants who drank less than a glass of wine a day had a 37% lower prevalence of CKD than those who didn’t drink wine at all. Further, those who already had CDK were 29% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than the participants who didn’t drink wine.
Of course, it’s no secret that too much alcohol is a bad thing. Thomas Manley, the National Kidney Foundation’s director of scientific activities, pointed out that heavy drinking can damage kidney function and cause hypertension, which is a major cause of CKD, so adhering to the “less than one glass” rule is important.
How does it work?
It isn’t exactly clear how drinking wine promotes healthy kidney function. In the past, moderate wine consumption has been known to lower protein levels in urine. High levels of protein in those who suffer from CKD can result in the progression of the disease, so there could be a link there.
Wine has also been known to have antioxidant properties, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can help prevent or delay cell damage. In wine, they help increase the levels of “good” cholesterol in your blood and protect arteries from getting damaged.
What other benefits are there?
The National Kidney Foundation reports that heart disease is the major cause of death for all people with CKD. Mehta told Fox News that drinking small amounts of wine can play a part in promoting a healthy heart.
“Kidney disease shares common risk factors with cardiovascular disease, and previous studies have shown that wine consumption has an association with lower risk of cardiovascular disease in the general population,” he said.
So, if you already suffer from CKD, those antioxidants in the occasional glass of wine could help treat the onset of fatal heart problems.
While these findings are certainly exciting, Mehta stressed that they are not yet indicative of a definite cause-and-effect relationship. Dr. Gary Curhan, a professor of medicine at Harvard School of Public Health, said that the findings are consistent with past research, but if you didn’t drink wine before, the study shouldn’t necessarily serve as a reason to start.