A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology —Gastrointestial and Liver Physiology, suggests that a compound found in grapes, peanuts, berries, and ironically, red wine, may help alleviate the ill effects of chronic alcohol consumption on the liver. The accumulation of fat in the liver can lead to such diseases as cirrhosis and fibrosis.

...[R]esveratrol both increased circulating levels of the hormone adiponectin...[which is] important in regulating fat metabolism.

Previous research had suggested that the compound, resveratrol, helps reverse the effects of alcohol at the molecular level; researchers in the present study wished to determine exactly how this mechanism worked in the livers of mice. The subjects were fed a low-fat diet and divided into different treatment groups. One group received both resveratrol and alcohol, one group received only alcohol, and one group received neither compound (control group).

Researchers found that, among a handful of positive effects, resveratrol stimulated the action of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and increased expression of SIRT1 in liver cells. How does this affect the accumulation of fat in the liver? Alcohol works to deactivate these molecules, which are both key players in the regulation of fat metabolism. AMPK and SIRT1 exercise their effects by decreasing fat production in the liver and by helping rid the liver of the fat that has already accumulated there.

Another significant result was that resveratrol both increased circulating levels of the hormone adiponectin and upped the number of its receptors in the liver — adiponectin is produced by fat cells and is also important in regulating fat metabolism.

The study's lead author, Min You, underlines the fact that, "the combination of alcohol with resveratrol appears to enhance the positive effects of resveratrol." She also points out that "resveratrol may serve as a promising agent for preventing or treating human alcoholic fatty liver disease." In the future it may be possible to use resveratrol to create an effective treatment for the disease in humans.

The study was carried out by researchers at the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida's Health Sciences Center.