Drinking Alcohol and Gallstone & Gallbladder Disease Risk

Alcohol and gallstone disease. Are they related? Yes. Drinking alcohol reduces the risk of gallstone and gallbladder disease.


I.   Research

II.  Gallstone Disease

III. Gallstone Disease Risks

IV.  Resources

V.   References

I. Research on Alcohol and Gallstone Disease

Here is some of the research.

• Researchers followed 1,290,413 women in the UK for over six years. Drinking reduced the risk of gallstone disease. Those who had 15 or more drinks weekly had a 41% lower risk.  That’s compared to those who had one to two drinks weekly.1

• Analysts studied data on 58,462 Italians. The men and women were age 25 and over. They controlled age, sex, and other factors. Then they compared drinkers to non-drinkers. Those who had up to about 1.3 drinks daily had a 17% reduced risk of gallstone disease. Those who had from 1.3 to 2.8 drinks daily had a 33% decrease. And those who had over 2.8 drinks daily showed a 42% drop in risk.2

• Researchers followed 88,837 women aged 34 to 59 for four years. They then analyzed the resulting data. Drinking alcohol and gallbladder disease were linked. Those who drank daily had a 40% decreased risk of gallbladder disease.3alcohol and gallstone

• A study examined 29,584 Italian men. Researchers compared drinkers to non-drinkers. Daily moderate drinking greatly lowered their risk of gallstone disease. 4

• Researchers followed 80,898 women in the US for 20 years. As drinking increased, risk of gallstone disease decreased. Compared to abstainers, women who had up to one drink daily had a 14% decrease in risk. Those who drank an average of four or more drinks per day had a 38% reduced risk. And increased frequency of drinking greatly decreased risk.5

• Analysts did a meta-analysis of studies of alcohol and gallstone disease. They analyzed data from eight cohort and 10 other studies. Higher drinking went with with lower risk of gallstone disease. That was true among both men and women.6

II. Gallstone Disease


The gallbladder is a small pouch-like organ under the liver on the right side of the body. It’s about three to six inches long. It produces a liquid (bile) that mostly helps digestion.

Gallstones are small lumps of solid material. They may consist of cholesterol, mostly calcium, or both. Gallstones can range in size from grains of sand to pebbles. They form from imbalances in the bile.

Gallstones may cause no problem. But when they do, they cause pain.

Symptoms of Gallstone Disease
    • The most common symptom of gallstone disease is pain in the abdomen. It may be in the center of the abdomen. Or it may under the ribs on the right side. The pain usually lasts one to five hours. But it may last as long as eight hours.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Profuse sweating.

If there are complications of the disease, any of these symptoms may occur. 

    • Temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or above.
    • Rapid heartbeat.
    • Continuing pain.
    • Chills
    • Diarrhrea
    • Itchy skin.
    • Confusion
    • Appetite loss.
    • Jaundice (yellowing in whites of eyes or skin).

III. Gallstone Disease Risks

    • Female, especially of child-bearing age.
    • High cholesterol diet.
    • Consuming salty foods.
    • High fat diet.
    • Not drinking enough alcohol.

alcohol and gallstone

IV. Resources


V. Footnotes: Alcohol and Gallstone Disease

1. Liu, B., et al. Effects of alcohol and smoking on the risks of cirrhosis and gallbladder disease in middle-aged women. Am J Epid., 2008, 169(2), 153-160.
2. La Vecca, C., et al. Alcohol drinking and prevalence of self-reported gallstone disease in the 1983 Italian National Health Survey. Epid., 1994, 5(5), 533-6.
3. Maclure, K., et al. Weight, diet, and the risk of symptomatic gallstones in middle-aged women. New Eng J Med., 1989, 321, 563-569.
4. Attili, A., et al. Diet, and gallstones in Italy. Hepa., 1998, 27(6), 1492-1498.
5. Leitzmann, M.F., et al. Alcohol consumption in relation to risk of cholec in women. Am J Clin Nutri., 2003, 78(2), 339-347.
6. Wang J., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of gallstone disease. Eur J Gastro Hepatol., 2016 Dec 6.

    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor for alcohol and gallstone disease questions.