Aerobic Fitness: It May Protect The Liver Against Chronic Alcohol Use

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 12:05 AM EST

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found that aerobic exercise may protect the liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury. The findings are published in the journal Biomolecules.

"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, in a news release. "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."

During the study, researchers took rats bred for high activity and tested if increased metabolism helped protect the liver against fatty deposits and inflammation. While one group of rats was exposed to chronic alcohol use for six weeks, a second group was not exposed to alcohol over the same time period.

"As expected, we found that fatty deposits were greater in the livers of the chronic alcohol group," said Ibdah. "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."

Researchers also discovered that chronic alcohol ingestion results in discernible increases in free fatty acids, triglycerides, insulin or glucose in the blood in the group that's exposed to alcohol when compared to the control group. 

The study authors caution that more researchers is necessary in order to better understand how aerobic fitness helps with oxidative protection against chronic alcohol use and understanding the mechanism that leads to eventual treatments for alchol-related liver damage. 

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