Alcohol May Protect Kidney Function in Men

Heavy and binge drinking found to significantly decrease the likelihood of renal dysfunction.
Heavy and binge drinking found to significantly decrease the likelihood of renal dysfunction.

Alcohol consumption may protect against kidney function decline in men, a study found.

Researchers at The Catholic University of Korea in Seoul led by Sang-Wook Song, MD, PhD, studied 5,251 participants in the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional survey of Korean civilians.

Among men, heavy alcohol drinkers and binge drinkers had a significant 86% and 58% decreased odds of a renal dysfunction (estimated glomerular filtration rate [eGFR] below 60 mL/min/1.73 m2) compared with abstainers after adjusting for age, smoking status, body mass index, and other potential confounders. The investigators observed no significant association between alcohol consumption and eGFR among women.

In addition, in both men and women, the study demonstrated no significant association between alcohol consumption and urine albumin to creatinine ratio.

In a report published in Kidney & Blood Pressure Research (2014;39:40-49), Dr. Song's group noted that heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking may lead to increases in other chronic disease and social problems, including accidents and intentional injuries, and death. “Thus, our results should be considered cautiously, given the other harmful effects related to alcohol consumption,” the authors concluded.

The researchers classified mean daily alcohol intake into 3 categories: abstinence (no alcohol-containing drinks within the past year); moderate drinking (men and women: 0.1-39.99 grams and 0.1-19.99 grams of pure alcohol per day, respectively); and heavy drinking (40 grams or more of pure alcohol for men and 20 grams or more per day for women).

For men, the researchers defined binge drinking as consuming 5 or more standard drinks consecutively on a single occasion; for women, it was 4 or more standard drinks. They used the Korean definition of a “standard drink,” which is any drink containing 12 grams of pure alcohol.

The study population consisted of 2,386 men and 2,865 women. Moderate, heavy, and binge drinking was more prevalent among men than women (77.1%, 10.6%, and 74.1% vs. 61.5%, 5.3%, and 37.6%, respectively).

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