Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Alcohol and Helicobacter pylori
Further evidence has emerged that moderate consumption of alcohol may lower a person’s risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with stomach ulcers, UK researchers have found.

However, people already with ulcers are advised to avoid alcohol as it can aggravate ulcer pain. Alcohol consumption can also, in some people, boost levels of stomach acid.

H. pylori bacteria are commonly found in the human body and usually cause no harm. But experts believe that the bug contributes to a majority of stomach ulcers–although why this happens in only some people is unknown. Although the infection is usually acquired in childhood, little is known about the factors, apart from poor living conditions during childhood, that affect either acquisition or elimination of the organism.

Dr. Liam J. Murray of The Queen’s University of Belfast and colleagues comment:"Lifestyle factors operating during adulthood such as smoking and alcohol consumption may influence spontaneous eradication of the organism".The researchers evaluated the lifestyle habits including smoking, drinking and coffee consumption among 4,902 adult men and women. Of the group, 1,634 tested positive for H. pylori infection.

People who drank 3 to 6 glasses of wine or 3-6 half pints of beer per week had an 11% lower risk of H. pylori infection compared to those who did not drink. Higher wine and beer consumption were associated with an additional 6% reduction in the risk of infection. Smoking or coffee drinking were not related to the likelihood of active H. pylori infection, the report indicates.

The researchers speculate that antibacterial agents in red wine and beer may keep the infection at bay. "Our data indicate that modest consumption of beer or wine–approximately one drink per day per week–protects against active H. pylori infection, presumably by facilitating eradication of the organisms. However, the data do not enable us to comment on the relevance of patterns of wine and beer consumption," Murray and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Murray LJ et al. Inverse relationship between alcohol consumption and active Helicobacter pylori infection: the Bristol Helicobacter project. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 2002;97:2750-5.

All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.