Moderate consumption of alcohol may decrease the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Renal Nutrition.

In a prospective analysis of data from 12,692 participants aged 45 to 64 years in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a team led by Casey M. Rebholz, PhD, MS, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore found that, compared with people who never drank alcohol, those who consumed 1 or fewer drinks per week, 2 to 7 drinks per week, 8 to 14 drinks per week, and 15 or more drinks per week had significant 12%, 20%, 29%, and 23% decreased risks of incident CKD, respectively, after adjusting for total energy intake, age, sex, race, and other potential confounders.

The investigators defined incident CKD as an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) below 60 mL/min/1.73 m2 accompanied by a 25% or greater eGFR decline, a kidney-disease-related hospitalization or death or end-stage renal disease. They defined 1 drink as a 4-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor. Current drinkers were more likely to be men and to be white, results showed. They also were more likely to have higher income and education levels. During a median follow-up of 24 years, incident CKD developed in 3664 participants.

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Previous research has shown that moderate alcohol consumptions, defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men, is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This may be due to alcohol increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which could increase transport rate of lipoproteins and lipoprotein lipase activity, thereby preventing CHD, Dr Rebholz and his colleagues explained. As CHD and CKD “share many risk factors and pathophysiology, it is possible that moderate alcohol consumption may also reduce the risk of CKD.”

The authors noted that the findings of their study echo those of previous research demonstrating an inverse association between alcohol intake and CKD risk, but these earlier investigations were conducted in select populations with limited generalizability. “The present analysis, which was conducted in a community-based cohort of black and white men and women from 4 US centers, helps to address this gap,” they stated.

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The new study is not without limitations, however. Dr Rebholz’s team pointed out that alcohol intake was self-reported and thus subject to reporting bias and may have been under-reported. The investigators also acknowledged that they did not have baseline values for albuminuria and proteinuria, which would have been useful markers of kidney damage.


Hu EA, Lazo M, Rosenberg SD, et al. Alcohol consumption and incident kidney disease: Results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. J Renal Nutr. 2020;30:22-33.

doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2019.01.011