Background: Alcohol consumption has been linked to a lower risk of gallstone disease. However, the magnitude of the association is uncertain, and little is known about the relation of alcohol consumption patterns and individual types of alcoholic beverages to gallstone disease risk.
Objective: We prospectively examined the association between alcohol intake and cholecystectomy, a surrogate for symptomatic gallstone disease, in a large cohort of women.
Design: Women from the Nurses' Health Study who had no history of gallstone disease in 1980 (n = 80,898) were followed for 20 y. Alcohol consumption, which was measured every 2-4 y by food-frequency questionnaires, was used to predict subsequent cholecystectomy through multivariate analysis.
Results: We ascertained 7831 cases of cholecystectomy. Relative to subjects who had no alcohol intake, subjects who had alcohol intakes of 0.1-4.9, 5.0-14.9, 15.0-29.9, 30.0-49.9, and >/=50.0 g/d had multivariate relative risks of cholecystectomy of 0.95, 0.86, 0.80, 0.67, and 0.62 (95% CI: 0.49, 0.79), respectively. Relative to subjects who never consumed alcohol, subjects who consumed alcohol 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7 d/wk had multivariate relative risks of cholecystectomy of 0.94, 0.88, 0.87, and 0.73 (0.63, 0.84), respectively. All alcoholic beverage types were inversely associated with cholecystectomy risk, independent of consumption patterns (for quantity of alcohol consumed, P = 0.04, 0.001, and 0.003 for wine, beer, and liquor, respectively; for frequency of alcohol consumption, P = 0.01, 0.07, and <0.0001 for wine, beer, and liquor, respectively).
Conclusions: The intake of all alcoholic beverage types is inversely associated with the risk of cholecystectomy. Recommendations regarding the benefit of consuming moderate quantities of alcohol should be weighed against the potential health hazards.