A large, long-term study has confirmed that drinking alcohol during their late teens could be the first step towards liver problems in adult men…

Alcohol is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and liver-related deaths.

“Our study showed that how much you drink in your late teens can predict the risk of developing cirrhosis later in life,” explains lead investigator Hannes Hagström, MD, PhD, of the Centre for Digestive Diseases, Division of Hepatology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

“However, what can be considered a safe cut-off in men is less clear.”

Almost 40-year follow-up study

Investigators used data from a nationwide population-based study conducted from 1969 to 1970 of all Swedish men conscripted into military service. The study was based on more than 49 000 young Swedish men, aged 18 to 20.

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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.

After 39 years of follow-up, 383 men had developed a severe liver disease, which was defined as a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis, decompensated liver disease (hepatocellular carcinoma, ascites, oesophagal varices, hepatorenal syndrome, or hepatic encephalopathy), liver failure or death from liver disease.

Before adjustment for body mass index, tobacco consumption, the use of narcotics, cardiovascular fitness, and cognitive ability, the risk was significant for daily alcohol consumption as low as six grams per day. These results are only valid for men and need to be validated in women.

“If these results lead to lowering the cut-off levels for a ‘safe’ consumption of alcohol in men, and if men adhere to recommendations, we may see a reduced incidence of alcoholic liver disease in the future,” says Dr. Hagström.

Related: How alcohol increases your risk of cancer

Alcohol-related cirrhosis kills 493 300 annually

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, the alcohol-related disease is theoretically 100% preventable, which makes the role of preventive measures central in decreasing the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on society.

Source: Elsevier via www.sciencedaily.com

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