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If you live within walking distance of your favorite pub, you may want to consider jogging or running home after your next visit.
That’s because aerobic exercise may protect your liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury.
“Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common causes of chronic liver failure,” said Jamal Ibdah, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, Raymond E. and Vaona H. Peck Chair in Cancer Research at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “We know from previous research that chronic and binge drinking causes modifications to protein structures within the liver, resulting in irreversible damage. In our current study we wanted to see whether increased levels of aerobic fitness could prevent alcohol-related liver damage.”
To judge the possible liver-protective effects of exercise related to alcohol consumption, the research team used “runner rats.” One group of these rats, bred for high activity, were exposed to chronic alcohol use for six weeks and compared to a second group of teetotaler rats.
“As expected, we found that fatty deposits were greater in the livers of the chronic alcohol group,” said Ibdah, who also serves as director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the MU School of Medicine. “However, chronic alcohol ingestion did not cause significant inflammation in the liver. Higher physical activity levels seemed to protect against the metabolic dysfunction that eventually leads to irreversible liver damage.”
While it’s good news that aerobic exercise appears to be able to decrease liver damage from excessive drinking, if you drink it is of course always best to do so in moderation. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.