Obesity and Alcohol Combined Raise Risk of Liver Disease

Studies show higher BMI plus high alcohol consumption increases risk in both men, women
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity and alcohol act together to increase liver disease risk, an effect seen in both men and women, according to research published online March 11 in BMJ.

Bette Liu, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom analyzed data from the Million Women Study cohort on 1,230,662 women with a mean age of 56 years. They found that, among women with a body mass index (BMI) of 22.5 or above, increasing BMI was associated with an increased rate of liver cirrhosis (adjusted relative risk, 1.28 for every five-unit increase in BMI). For women who drank less than 70 g of alcohol per week, the absolute risk of liver cirrhosis per 1,000 women over five years was 0.8 for those with a BMI of 22.5 to 25 and 1.0 for those with a BMI of 30 or more. The corresponding figures for women who drank 150 g or more weekly were 2.7 and 5.0.

Carole L. Hart, of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed two cohort studies of 9,559 men who were followed for an average of 29 years. In adjusted analyses they found that BMI and alcohol consumption were strongly associated with liver disease mortality. They also found evidence of a supra-additive interaction between elevated BMI and alcohol consumption. Compared to underweight or normal-weight non-drinkers, obese men who drank 15 or more units of alcohol a week were at 19-times higher risk of liver disease, the data revealed.

"Reducing alcohol consumption and obesity are, at present, our only weapons against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and this condition can be added to the list of the undesirable consequences of modern lifestyles," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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