Cirrhosis risk increases with daily alcohol consumption, a new study shows
Cirrhosis risk increases with daily alcohol intake, according to new research. Every year, nearly 170,000 people die of cirrhosis of the liver in Europe, and alcohol use is a massive risk factor.
The researchers have uncovered that alcohol use patterns influence the risk of cirrhosis, with daily intake having a greater impact on the risk of developing cirrhosis, compared to consuming alcohol less frequently.
What it means
Lead investigator Gro Askgaard explained:
For the first time, our study points to a risk difference between [alcohol intake] daily and [alcohol consumption] five or six days a week in the general male population, since earlier studies were conducted on alcohol misusers and patients referred for liver disease and compared daily [alcohol use] to ‘binge pattern’ or ‘episodic’ [intake].
Since the details of alcohol-induced liver injury are unknown, we can only speculate that the reason may be that daily alcohol exposure worsens liver damage or inhibits liver regeneration.”
For the study, the researchers assessed alcohol cosnumption habits of 56,000 participants from Denmark. All the participants underwent a brief physical examination and completed very detailed food frequency questionnaires along with questionnaires measuring other lifestyle habits, including alcohol consumption, smoking, physical activity, etc. Respondents had to recollect their past alcohol consumption habits, too.
Of the participants, 257 men and 85 women developed cirrhosis of the liver. No cirrhosis cases were observed among participants who never used alcohol.
In men, the strongest predictor of alcohol cirrhosis was recent alcohol consumption, not lifetime consumption. Daily alcohol use was shown to increase the risk of cirrhosis.
Jürgen Rehm from the Centers of Mental Health and Addiction in Toronto, Canada, commented:
This is a timely contribution about one of the most important, if not the most important risk factor for liver cirrhosis globally, because our overall knowledge about [alcohol use] patterns and liver cirrhosis is sparse and in part contradictory.
The work of Askgaard and colleagues not only increases our knowledge, but also raises questions for future research. The question of binge [alcohol consumption] patterns and mortality is far from solved, and there may be genetic differences or other covariates not yet discovered, which play a role and could explain the different empirical findings.”
The study reaffirms the importance of reducing and preventing alcohol consumption as a means of preventing liver disease.