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One day off drink a week lowers disease risk

Drinking five or six days a week, compared with drinking daily, can reduce your chance of developing cirrhosis of the liver, a recent study has claimed.

While drinking heavily is not advised, a study published in the Journal of Hepatology found that even refraining from drinking at least one day a week will reduce your risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver.

The study looked at the drinking patterns and instances of cirrhosis in around 56,000 people aged between 50 and 64 between 1993 and 2011.

It found that while alcohol drinking patterns have a significant influence on the risk of cirrhosis, daily drinking increases that risk compared with drinking less frequently, with even one day off a week of benefit.

“For the first time, our study points to a risk difference between drinking daily and drinking five or six days a week in the general male population, since earlier studies were conducted on alcohol misusers and patients referred for liver disease and compared daily drinking to ‘binge pattern’ or ‘episodic’ drinking,” said lead investigator Gro Askgaard, MD of the Department of Hepatology at Copenhagen University Hospital.

“Since the details of alcohol induced liver injury are unknown, we can only speculate that the reason may be that daily alcohol exposure worsens liver damage or inhibits liver regeneration.”

Among the 55,917 participants, 257 men and 85 women developed alcoholic cirrhosis with no cases of alcoholic cirrhosis found among lifetime abstainers.

In men, the results showed that daily drinking increases the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis compared with drinking less frequently. The results also suggest that recent alcohol consumption, and not lifetime alcohol consumption, is the strongest predictor of alcoholic cirrhosis. Among women, researchers were unable to draw firm conclusions due to low statistical power, though in general the same trends were seen.

Compared with beer and liquor, wine was found to be associated with a lower risk of alcoholic cirrhosis, provided there was a moderate level of weekly consumption.

Jürgen Rehm, PhD, director of the social and epidemiological research department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto said: “This is a timely contribution about one of the most important, if not the most important risk factor for liver cirrhosis globally, because our overall knowledge about drinking patterns and liver cirrhosis is sparse and in part contradictory.”

She added: “The question of binge drinking patterns and mortality is far from solved, and there may be genetic differences or other covariates not yet discovered, which play a role and could explain the different empirical findings.”

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