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What alcohol is easiest on your liver? It's a surprisingly common question and one that doesn't exactly have a straightforward answer.
If you've landed on this article, chances are you're looking for a healthier way to drink alcohol.
Many years of liver neglect may be catching up on you. Thankfully, the liver is one of the most regenerative organs in the body so it's never too late to start changing your drinking habits.
In this article, we're going to take a closer look at which alcohol is easiest on your liver. To do so, we'll need to go over how alcohol affects your liver in the first place.
How does alcohol affect the liver?
Alcohol is metabolized (broken down) in the liver. The process involves enzymes that break down ethanol (alcohol) into acetaldehyde which is further broken down into acetic acid.
Acetaldehyde is a noxious substance because it readily breaks down into "free-radicals". These are highly charged particles that react with your cells causing inflammation.
But one of the main causes of alcohol-related liver disease is the build-up of fat in the liver. In simple terms, the metabolism of alcohol produces by-products that increase fat deposits in the liver. Over many years, this fuels inflammation and damage to liver cells which results in scarring (aka cirrhosis). (1)
It's important to note that these changes occur over many years with chronic alcohol consumption over the recommended guidelines. And these changes are less likely if drinking in moderation (within national guidelines).(2)
Which alcohol is easiest on the liver?
So, now on to the all-important question, which alcohol is easiest on the liver?
The quick answer is, none of them.
The reason is that the main liver-damaging ingredient in all types of alcohol is ethanol. It doesn't matter which alcohol you chose, be it weak beer or grain alcohol.
Ultimately, the main thing that matters when it comes to deciding which alcohol is easiest on your liver is the strength and volume of alcohol consumed.
In the United States, a "standard drink" is defined as any beverage containing 0.6 fl oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol.
That means 12 fl oz of 5% beer (a small can) has the same amount of alcohol as 1.5 fl oz of 40% vodka (a shot glass). (3)
Therefore, drinking five cans of beer and 5 shots of vodka will put the same amount of alcohol-related pressure on your liver. Despite the volume of fluid from five cans of beer being a lot more than five shots.
In summary: There is no type of alcohol that is easier on your liver. The concentration of alcohol and volume consumed is the key differentiating factor. If you drink enough of any type of alcohol (even weak ones), it will be damaging to the liver.
Other factors to consider when deciding which alcohol is easiest on the liver
Fatty liver disease is another major cause of inflammation and long-term morbidity to be aware of. In fact, fatty liver is one of the most common causes of liver disease.(4)
That's why the amount of calories your drink contains is also important to consider.
Cocktails and carbonated mixers can be packed with carbohydrates (sugars) which are ultimately stored in your liver as fat.
In addition, drinks such as beer naturally contain much more calories compared to spirits. With that said, if you mix your whiskey with full sugar standard coke, it's equally as bad.
In summary: Considering the calories in your drink is an important factor when deciding what alcohol is easiest on your liver overall.
How to improve liver health
So, now that we've gone over which alcohol is easiest on your liver (none of them) and other factors that are important to consider, let's look at the best ways to improve liver health.
Drink less alcohol
Until recently, it was thought that drinking small quantities of alcohol is good for your health.
The health benefits were particularly attributed to alcoholic drinks like red wine. And that's because they are high in antioxidants such as resveratrol which have been shown in some studies to improve cardiovascular health.
With that said, opinions are starting to change. That's because recent research has shown that there is no "healthy" amount of alcohol. And not drinking at all is healthier than drinking, even in small quantities.(5)
That's why the answer to which alcohol is "easiest on your liver" is: no alcohol.
Exercise and have a healthy diet
It sounds obvious, but a low carbohydrate diet as well as limiting the intake of processed foods can do wonders for your liver long term.
Of course, exercise can also help in improving overall health as well as weight loss.
We mentioned before that your liver is one of the most regenerative (if not the most regenerative) organ in the body.
Therefore it's a forgiving organ and it's never too late to start taking action.
If you eat a healthy balanced diet, you'll get all the vitamins you need through your diet. Therefore, there usually isn't a need for regular supplementation.
However, chronic alcohol use is well-known to increase the requirements for certain vitamins. These mainly include vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6.
Which alcohol is easiest on the liver - Final words
That brings us to the end of our look into what alcohol is easiest on the liver.
Unfortunately, there is no type of alcohol that is easier on your liver. Overall, the amount you drink is what matters.
At the end of the day, the damaging ingredient in alcohol is "ethanol" and all alcoholic drinks contain it.
That's why it's not as simple as comparing if liquor is worse for your liver compared to beer. Or vice versa
Chronic alcohol consumption of any type of alcohol will be damaging to the liver and the body in general.
With that said, drinking within recommended guidelines and keeping a healthy lifestyle is unlikely to put any excessive pressure on the liver.