Low daily alcohol consumption in teen years ‘may increase risk of liver disease’

Study says safe limits may have to be revised after examination of habits of 43,000 men

Retrieved from:  https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/low-daily-alcohol-consumption-in-teen-years-may-increase-risk-of-liver-disease-1.3363164

A Swedish study   on more than 43,000 men  found that how much a person drinks in their late teens can predict the risk of developing cirrhosis later in life. Photograph: iStockPhotograph: iStock

A Swedish study on more than 43,000 men found that how much a person drinks in their late teens can predict the risk of developing cirrhosis later in life.

Daily alcohol consumption even at very low levels early in life may significantly increase the risk of alcoholic liver disease in men, a new study suggests.

The paper, published in the Journal of Hepatology, suggests that guidelines for safe alcohol intake in men may have to be “revised downwards”.

Alcohol is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and liver-related deaths. The current maximum weekly recommended limit for men in Ireland is 17 units, or standard drinks. A unit contains 10 grams of alcohol and is equivalent to a half pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

A study by Swedish doctors, based on more than 43,000 men conscripted into the army in 1969-1970 at the ages of 18 and 19, found that how much a person drinks in their late teens can predict the risk of developing cirrhosis later in life.

After 39 years of follow-up, 383 men had developed severe liver disease, including liver cancers, and the risk was found to be more pronounced in those who had consumed two drinks a day – about 20 grams of alcohol – or more.

“Data indicated that alcohol consumption early in life was associated with an increased risk of developing severe liver disease,” the study said.

“After almost 40 years of follow-up, we found that alcohol consumption was a significant risk factor for developing severe liver disease and was most pronounced in men consuming two drinks per day or more,” the authors said.

Cut-off levels

“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,” the authors said.

They concluded that “current guidelines for safe alcohol intake in men might have to be revised”. The results of the study are only valid for men and need to be validated for women.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.

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