This Is the Alcoholic Drink That’s Least Harmful to Your Liver, Says a Liver Doctor

Updated: Jun. 10, 2024

We all know reducing your alcohol intake is a good step in protecting your liver health...but when you want to reach for the occasional adult beverage, one hepatologist suggests there's an option that could do less damage than the rest.

A 2019 study shows how alcohol is a major risk factor for liver disease, and in particular for liver cirrhosis. Many doctors and dietitians agree, encouraging those of us who enjoy a drink to reduce the amount of alcohol we consume.

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“Less is best—too much alcohol of any kind contributes to liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver,” says Melissa Prest, MS, RD and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Prest cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) alcohol consumption guidelines: “Stick to no more than one glass a day for women and two a day for men,” she says.

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Nancy Reau, MD, associate director of Solid Organ Transplantation and Section Chief of Hepatology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, adds, “There are many studies that show that any alcohol of any type can increase liver related complications. It is also difficult to know the risk of alcohol when you have another liver disease like fatty liver or viral hepatitis.”

But, says Dr. Reau, if giving up alcohol completely isn’t quite practical, there’s one choice of beverage she might recommend you consider over the others. “If you have a healthy liver,” Dr. Reau says, “red wine has been shown to have antioxidants and could impact your liver health.”

Her caveat? “Moderation is very important. You still need to stay in the CDC’s recommendations for safe alcohol consumption.”

The CDC recommends that the following categories of individuals should not drink alcohol at all:

  • People who are pregnant or might be pregnant.
  • People younger than 21 years old.
  • People with certain medical conditions, or who are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • People who are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink.

The CDC also advises that women who are lactating should speak with their healthcare providers about whether they should drink alcohol.

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