Obesity, alcohol join forces to increase liver disease risk

Updated: Mar 12, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Obesity and alcohol act together to increase the risk of liver disease in both men and women, say researchers.

Two studies published on bmj.com today conclude that, from a public health perspective, strategies to jointly reduce both excessive alcohol consumption and excessive body weight should lead to a reduction in the incidence of liver disease.

The first study, conducted by University of Oxford researchers, saw examination of 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.

Each participant was followed for an average of 6.2 years, and risks were adjusted for factors such as age, alcohol consumption, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity.

Compared to women of a healthy weight, women who were overweight or obese had an increased relative risk of liver cirrhosis. Although this relative risk did not differ significantly by alcohol consumption, the absolute risk did.

In the second study, boffins from the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol investigated the joint effects of BMI and alcohol consumption on liver disease in more than 9,000 men in Scotland. Participants were tracked for an average of 29 years.

Both factors were related to liver disease and, more importantly, the combination of high BMI and alcohol consumption was greater than the additive effect of the two separate factors.