London: Obesity and alcohol both increase the risk of liver disease, researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Glasgow show in two separate studies published in the British Medical Journal.
While alcohol is well known as a major cause of liver cirrhosis, recent evidence suggests that excess body weight may also play a role. With rates of liver disease and obesity
increasing in the UK, determining this role is important.
In the first study, researchers from the University of Oxford examined the link between body mass index (BMI) and liver cirrhosis in 1.2 million middle-aged UK women as part of the Million Women Study.
"We found that in middle-aged UK women, being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing liver cirrhosis compared with being a healthy weight," says Dr Bette Liu of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, who led the study.
"Because of the large size of the study, we were able to look at the combined effects of different levels of alcohol consumption and obesity on cirrhosis," she adds. "We estimate
that almost 20 per cent of liver cirrhosis in middle-aged UK women is due to excess weight, while almost 50 per cent is due to alcohol consumption".
The health of each woman was tracked for an average of 6.2 years, and risks were adjusted for factors such as age, alcohol consumption, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity.