Page last updated: July 8, 2013
Studies confirm link between alcohol, weight and liver disease in women

Two studies presented at the International Liver Congress 2013 in Amsterdam on 25 April highlighted the impact that alcohol and body weight have on liver disease.

The first study found that a combination of high alcohol intake and high body mass index (BMI) causes an increased risk of chronic liver disease.

More than 107,000 women across the United Kingdom who took part in the study were classed with a low or high Body Mass Index (BMI) (<25 or ≥ 25) and a low or high alcohol intake (between 0-15 or over 15 units per week). BMI is a measure for human body shape based on an individual’s weight and height, with people scoring ≥ 25 classified as overweight.

Results indicated that risk was significantly increased in the group of women with a high BMI and high alcohol intake, with these participants more likely to suffer from chronic liver disease.

Dr Prati EASL’s Scientific Committee Member said “These findings will have a significant impact on how we can help millions of people across the world at risk of developing liver disease. Women are at particular risk as they are twice as sensitive as men to alcohol related liver damage and developing a more severe form of the disease at lower doses with shorter durations of alcohol consumption. 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.”

Other research released at the congress showcased a strong link between the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in alcoholic cirrhosis patients and metabolic fatty liver disease. The study found that patients with alcoholic cirrhosis who also have fatty liver disease and are overweight, obese or type 2 diabetic are more likely to develop HCC.

The research examined 100 patients who received transplants for alcoholic end stage liver disease to analyse the impact of both fatty liver and metabolic risk factors such as obesity and type 2 diabetes on the development of HCC in patients.

The results showed more patients with HCC had been frequently overweight (54% compared to 14% of non-HCC patients) or diabetic (43% compared to 22% of non-HCC patients). Half (50%) of patients who had fatty liver disease and were overweight, obese or had type 2 diabetes were found to have HCC compared to just 6% of patients with HCC without these other conditions.

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