For those who love to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a cold beer while watching a football game, even more good news has recently come out about the health benefits of light-to-moderate alcohol consumption.
By now, it’s a pretty well known fact that red wine has properties that make it heart-healthy. Specifically, it contains an antioxidant called resveratrol that helps protect against heart disease and atherosclerosis.
More recently, research has come out touting alcohol’s ability to protect the kidneys against cancer. This conclusion was reached after researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 24 studies that examined alcoholic beverage intake and its influence on kidney and renal cell cancers.
After analyzing the data obtained in these 24 studies, researchers found a common thread — those who drank alcohol showed a decreased risk of renal cell cancer. Best results were obtained with the consumption of about 15 grams (about 1/8 cup) of alcohol per day.
Interestingly, they noted that all three major types of alcohol — beer, wine and liquor — significantly lowered the risk of renal cell cancer, suggesting that ethanol was likely the cause of these benefits. Furthermore, factors like gender, smoking status and hypertension didn’t seem to change the results.
How Does Alcohol Protect the Kidneys?
Researchers believe alcohol’s effect on insulin sensitivity and kidney vasculature (the arrangement of blood vessels in the kidneys) has something to do with these amazing protective benefits.
Diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance are strong factors in the development of renal cell cancer, and some studies have shown that light-to-moderate alcohol intake can improve insulin sensitivity.
In addition, alcohol may increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels and decrease clotting in the blood vessels around the kidneys, providing further protection.
Moderation is Still — and Always Will Be — Key!
As exciting as these results are, keep in mind that 15 grams, or 1/8 cup — the amount found to be protective — is not a lot of alcohol. In fact, researchers emphasized that consuming more than 15 grams didn’t offer any additional benefit.
Plus, drinking alcohol in excess has been proven without a doubt to increase the risk of serious conditions like hypertension, stroke, and various forms of cancer like breast, colorectal, esophageal, oral, stomach and liver.
So, avoid falling into the “too much of a good thing” trap and stick to one glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage per day. Due to its heart-health-promoting characteristics, red wine will always be the best choice. But whatever you choose, raise that glass knowing that your kidneys may just be thanking you!
 Song DY, Song S, Song Y and Lee JE. Alcohol intake and renal cell cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Br J Cancer. 2012 Apr 19;106(11):1881-90.