Previous research has linked alcohol intake to a reduced risk of gallstone disease.
Dr Michael Leitzmann and his team at Harvard examined the magnitude of the association between alcohol and gallstone disease in 80,898 women. The research team also investigated the role of alcohol consumption patterns and particular alcoholic beverages in the risk of gallstone disease.
Women who had no history of gallstone disease in 1980 were followed for 20 years. Alcohol consumption patterns were revealed by questionnaires every 2 to 4 years. The incidence of cholecystectomy was used as an indicator of gallstone disease.
|Regular drinkers had a reduced risk of gallstone disease.|
|American Journal of Clinical Nutrition|
The team identified 7831 cases of cholecystectomy in the cohort. Subjects with alcohol intakes of 0.1 to 4.9 g/day had a 0.95 risk of cholecystectomy relative to subjects who had no alcohol intake.
As alcohol intake rises the risk of cholecystectomy was shown to fall accordingly. Women with alcohol intakes of 5-15, 15-30 and 30-50g/day had relative risks of cholecystectomy of 0.86, 0.80 and 0.67 respectively.
Increased frequency of alcohol intake was similarly shown to reduce the risk of cholecystectomy. Women who drank every day had a relative risk of cholecystectomy of 0.73 compared to non-drinkers, whereas women who drank once or twice a week had a risk of 0.94.
All types of alcoholic beverage were inversely associated with the risk of gallstones.
However Dr Leitzmann points out that the benefits of alcohol intake should be weighed against the potential health hazards.