Alcohol & Our Liver – The Saturated Fat Protection Factor


Happy Tuesday Everyone,

This past weekend involved my participation in a 2 night bachelor party consisting of 2 late nights, 2 early mornings, and some excess alcohol.  I was actually really happy with myself in the fact that I did not overindulge in the drinking too much. I did not want to go to bed feeling dizzy in an unfamiliar bed and unfamiliar place with the likelihood of very little sleep.  Not really my idea of fun; so I was a good boy :-).  Another issue I came across this weekend was finding appropriate food choices.  As you all know I am pretty strict with a diet in line with the below books and those found on my resources page:


If you are not familiar with these diets, I would strongly suggest you purchase or find a copy of the above books.  You can also check out my Who Is The Barefoot Golfer Page to find out what I actually eat.  For the purpose of this article though, here are the basics: 1.) no gluten or grains whatsoever; 2.) no industrial seed/grain oils (ie. low omega 6 fats); 3.) no beans; 4.) no crappy cheese/only full fat dairy products; 5.) plenty of saturated fat from eggs, animal meats, coconut oil, and palm oil; 6.) plenty of vegetables and starchy tubers (think sweet potato).

Since I have previously written about alcohol and diet, with regards to probiotics, I began to think about diet and alcohol intake again, this time with regards to fat intake, specifically the type of dietary fat.  If you have read the above linked article, you will know that alcohol can most definitely have a negative impact on our intestinal health, which is very concerning given the connection between intestinal health and numerous chronic/modern diseases.  Aside from the aforementioned article, here a couple more references showing that alcohol consumption can negatively impact our intestinal health by causing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, leaky gut, chronic inflammation, and changes in how our gut and brain communicate (gut brain axis) (1, 2). Obviously, this is concerning for any of us that enjoy a drink now and then, so I wanted to see if the dietary fat content of my type of diet could protect against the damaging effects of alcohol intake.  So, I did some research on this and I found a definite relation to the level of the damaging effect of alcohol and the type of fat contained in our diets

Alcohol & Saturated Fat Consumption – Rodents

I was able to find some studies looking at the type of fat intake and its effect on both alcoholic fatty liver disease (“AFLD”) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (“NAFLD”).  However, the majority of the evidence out there seems to be in rodent models only.  I was only able to find one human study (mind you I didn’t spend days on end researching); unfortunately, it is only an epidemiological study so the correlation found cannot be taken as definitive.

In 2 of the below noted studies (3, 4), what the researchers did was had one group of rodents eat a diet that contained either majority grain/seed oil (usually corn oil), or majority beef tallow and medium chain saturated fatty acids (“MCT”).  On top of this they implemented a model to attempt to induce alcoholic fatty liver disease in both groups.  Basically they got the rodents nice and drunk on a consistent basis :-).  All joking aside, what these studies found was that the diet high in saturated fats (beef tallow and MTC) was protective against AFLD, and also reduced markers of leaky gut in these same groups (4).  It looks like the actual mechanism as to how this protection occurs is not yet fully understood but it appears that it is in part due to a reduction in oxidative stress (3), which I would say is probably correlated to the reduction in markers of leaky gut.  Interestingly, what the researchers found in (4) was that a high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (corn oil) was sufficient to induce NAFLD and the consumption of alcohol just made it worse.  These finding are also supported by this article (5) where the researchers induced NAFLD by overfeeding rats with PUFA (corn oil).  However, what was really cool with this last study is they took those same rats, changed their diets to one containing majority MCT instead of corn oil; and surprise, surprise, markers of NAFLD began to disappear.  This reduction in NAFLD was also MCT dose dependant (ie. the more MCT the less NAFLD).  Pretty cool stuff.

Alcohol & Saturated Fat Consumption – Humans

As mentioned above, I was only able to find one human study on this topic (6).  Again, this was an epidemiological study that took data from 17 different countries.  What they found was that higher intake of cholesterol and saturated fat was, in fact, protective against alcoholic cirrhosis.  Cool results, but unfortunately at the same time the authors note that these 2 dietary components are bad for our cardiovascular health.  If you have a look at the article, you will note that it is a little old, and now a days we should all know that cholesterol and saturated fats are actually good for our cardiovascular health, just like they are for our liver :-).


So, should we all go out a drink as much as we can as long as we are eating a paleo style diet? Not at all! Abstaining from alcohol is still ideal if you can do so! However, we have to have a bit of fun now and again, and it simply appears that a proper ancestral/paleo type diet including a good amount of animal fat, coconut oil, and palm oil should protect us from some of the major negative impacts of alcohol consumption.  Oh ya, and throw in some probiotic foods also.


The Barefoot Golfer








1 Comment

  1. Aly

    Great Article!!! I just started to avoid oil (not fat but pure oil) and I really wondered what effect it would have on my liver while intaking alcohol. I guess great minds think alike lol. Than you for such a great read!


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