Liver Problems caused by Drinking Early in Life

1 month ago Saloni Hindocha 0

A recent study shows that people who start drinking early in their lives have greater chances of developing liver problems in adulthood. Alcohol is the leading cause of liver-related deaths and liver cirrhosis. A long-term study in Sweden suggests that guidelines for safe alcohol intake in men might have to be revised downwards. Current recommended cut-off levels in some countries suggest that safe alcohol consumption for men to avoid liver problems is 30 grams per day, roughly equivalent to three drinks. Lead Investigator Hannes Hagstrom says that the study showed that the amount we drink in the late teens predicts the risk of developing liver problems later in life.

Alcohol Causes Liver Problems

Investigators conducted a retrospective study to assess the association between alcohol consumed early in life with later development of severe liver problems and diseases. They used the data from a nationwide population-based study which was undertaken in 1969-1970 of all Swedish men who were recruited into military service. During that time, conscription was compulsory in Sweden and only 2-3% of the men in total exempted from this forced enlisting in the army, mostly due to severe disabilities or disease. This study was based on more than 49,000 Swedish men, aged 18-20, who were conscripted at that time.

Alcohol Causes Liver Problems

Researchers matched personal identification numbers from the conscription data with records in the National Patient Register and the Causes of Death Register to establish whether participants had developed severe liver disease up to the end of 2009. Results were adjusted for body mass index, smoking, use of narcotics, cognitive ability, and cardiovascular capacity. Data showed that alcohol consumption early in life was followed by an increased risk of developing severe liver problems.  After 39 years of follow-up, 383 men had developed severe liver problems, which was defined as a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis, decompensated liver disease (hepatocellular carcinoma, ascites, esophageal varices, hepatorenal syndrome, or hepatic encephalopathy), liver failure, or death from liver disease.

Alcohol Causes Liver Problems

This risk is dose dependent and more prominent in men consuming two drinks per day, about 20 grams, or more. These results are only valid for men and need to be validated in women. According to the World Health Organization’s 2014 global status report on alcohol and health, alcohol-related cirrhosis is responsible for 493,300 deaths each year. Although there is no approved treatment, an alcohol-related disease is theoretically 100% preventable, which makes the role of preventive measures extremely important in decreasing the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on society. The study has been published in the Journal of Hepatology.