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Health Watch: Wine Consumption Reduces Kidney Stone Risk

Also, researchers find moderate drinking while pregnant does not damage children's development

Esther Mobley, Jacob Gaffney
Posted: July 16, 2013

Doctors have long recommended that patients suffering from kidney stones drink plenty of fluids. But new research suggests that not all drinks are equal—a study by experts at university hospitals in Boston and Rome found that moderate wine consumption is associated with a lower risk of stone development, while the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a higher risk.

For the study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, nearly 200,000 subjects reported the type and amount of beverages they drank over eight years and whether or not they developed kidney stones. Participants who drank beverages sweetened with fructose—like soda and punch—were 18 to 33 percent more likely to develop stones, depending on the beverage. Wine, meanwhile, yielded a 31 to 33 percent lower likelihood. Other low-risk drinks included beer, coffee, tea and orange juice.

“It has to do with oxalates,” explained Dr. Gary Curhan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and one of the study’s authors, referring to a family of chemical compounds. “There are lots of different factors that influence the risk of stone formation, and the most common type of stone is calcium oxalate, so it may be that fructose increases the amount of oxalate that comes out in the urine.”

The preventative powers of wine are not yet fully understood. “It might be speculated that an increased urine output”—due to wine’s diuretic effects—“might play a role,” said co-author Dr. Pietro Manuel Ferraro. Curhan added the possibility that alcohol “interferes with the kidney’s ability to concentrate the urine, and the more dilute the urine is, the less likely it is that a crystal will form.” Ferraro said that participants who drank at least one serving of wine every day showed a significantly lower risk of stone formation than occasional imbibers.

Light alcohol while pregnant may be OK

Recent research in southwest England found that most mothers in the region drank alcohol while pregnant. In fact, of the 6,915 mothers who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children by a team at the University of Bristol, more than 95 percent classify themselves as regular consumers of alcohol. But the researchers also found that most of the women drank in moderation and there was no evidence alcohol consumption during pregnancy adversely impacted the children's physical development.

According to the study, published in the British Medical Journal, the women drank an average of three to seven servings of alcoholic beverages per week. Their children, now averaging 10 years in age, performed well on a variety of balancing acts, such as walking on a beam or standing on one leg. However, the study notes that most of the mothers are affluent and other factors may have aided child development.

Cancer researchers conduct follow-up study on wine

When a team of epidemiological researchers in Germany published a study a year ago that linked alcohol consumption to cancer, Wine Spectator asked if the anti-cancer properties of polyphenols in wine may serve as a counterbalance to alcohol's risk. The question spurred discussion among the team, based at the University of Dresden. "We have followed up on the question and our research was recently published" in the International Journal of Cancer, said Dirk Lachenmeier, chemist and lead author.

For the new study, the researchers focused on the polyphenol resveratrol and analyzed whether the doses found in wine could negate carcinogenic properties of alcohol. "The outcome, in short, is that you would need to drink 100 glasses of wine per day to reach effective dosages of resveratrol," said Lachenmeier. "Therefore, the conclusions of our original study are not confounded by the potential anti-carcinogenic properties of resveratrol."

The study does mention that there is surprisingly little research on the topic. And Lachenmeier and his team did not examine whether the multiple polyphenols in red wine and their combined anti-cancer properties offer health benefits.

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