Overweight, alcohol – lethal mix for liver

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Women who drink a lot of alcohol and who are overweight are at a significantly increased risk of developing, and dying from, liver disease, a new study has shown.

Thu 25/04/2013 by Deborah Condon  www.irishhealth.com

While both weight and alcohol are seen as risk factors for liver disease, European researchers set out to investigate the effect of both of these combined.

Over 107,000 women in the UK were assessed. They were classed depending on their weight and rate of alcohol consumption.

With weight, they were classed according to those who had a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, which is considered normal, and those with a BMI of higher than 25, which is considered overweight.

They were also classed depending on how much alcohol they consumed – less than 15 units per week, or more than 15 units per week.

The study found that when overweight and high alcohol consumption were combined, the risk of liver disease was much higher.

“It’s well known that alcohol and a person’s weight are major causes of chronic liver disease, however there has been a need for a large population study to compare these factors’ influences on each other. Interestingly, the research found the combination of a woman’s drinking habits and weight has an important effect on liver health and life expectancy,” explained Dr Daniele Prati of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL).

Dr Prati said that these findings could have a ’significant impact’ on millions of people worldwide who are at risk of developing liver disease.

He noted that women are at ’particular risk’ as they are twice as sensitive as men to alcohol-related liver damage and can develop a more severe form of the disease at lower doses and with shorter durations of alcohol consumption.

“Based on this research we know that a person with low BMI and high alcoholic intake have a greater risk of developing chronic liver disease compared to a woman with a high BMI who doesn’t drink very much. More research is required to determine the exact thresholds for each risk factor that independently and in combination increase the risk of chronic liver disease, but this is an important first step in the right direction,” Dr Prati said.

Details of these findings were presented at the International Liver Congress 2013 in Amsterdam.