Home > Where should the safe limits of alcohol consumption stand in light of liver enzyme abnormalities in alcohol consumers?

Niemelä, Onni and Niemelä, Markus and Bloigu, Risto and Aalto, Mauri and Laatikainen, Tiina (2017) Where should the safe limits of alcohol consumption stand in light of liver enzyme abnormalities in alcohol consumers? PLoS ONE, 12, (12), e0188574. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188574.

External website: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.137...

OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence and risk factors for abnormal liver enzymes in a large age- and gender stratified population-based sample of apparently healthy individuals with or without alcohol consumption and other health-related risk factors (adiposity, physical inactivity, smoking).

METHODS: Data on alcohol use, smoking, diet and physical activity were recorded using structured questionnaires from 13,976 subjects (6513 men, 7463 women, aged 25-74 years) in the national FINRISK studies. Alcohol data was used to categorize the participants into abstainers, light drinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. Serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activities were measured using standard kinetic methods.

RESULTS: Male light drinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers showed significantly higher relative risks of abnormal GGT than abstainers: 1.37 (95% confidence interval 1.11 to 1.71, p < 0.01), 2.72 (2.08 to 3.56, p < 0.0005), and 6.10 (4.55 to 7.17, p < 0.0005), respectively. Corresponding values for women were 1.22 (0.99 to 1.51, p = 0.065), 1.90 (1.44 to 2.51, p < 0.0005), and 5.91 (3.80 to 9.17, p < 0.0005). Estimated threshold doses for a significant GGT elevation was 14 standard weekly alcohol doses for men and 7 for women. Excess body weight and age over 40 years modulated the thresholds towards smaller quantities of alcohol. The risk of abnormal GGT was also significantly influenced by physical inactivity and smoking. The relative risks of abnormal ALT activities were increased in male heavy drinkers, especially in those presenting with adiposity and sedentary lifestyle.

CONCLUSIONS:: Alcohol use markedly increases the risk for abnormal liver enzyme activities in those presenting with age over 40 years, obesity, smoking or sedentary lifestyle. The data should be considered in public health recommendations and in the definitions of safe limits of alcohol use.

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