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Obesity increases liver-damaging effects of alcohol

Obesity heightens the harmful effects alcohol can have on liver disease, researchers have said.

The findings were based on medical data recorded from nearly half a million people and found that those who were significantly overweight were more prone to liver problems than those of a healthy weight but drank the same amount.

Senior author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the Charles Perkins Centre and the Faculty of Medicine and Health, said: “People in the overweight or obese range who drank were found to be at greater risk of liver diseases compared with participants within a healthy weight range who consumed alcohol at the same level.

“Even for people who drank within alcohol guidelines, participants classified as obese were at over 50 per cent greater risk of liver disease.”

The researchers said this study is one of the first and largest trials which has looked at how obesity and alcohol consumption impacts liver disease.

Lead author Dr Elif Inan-Eroglu, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Charles Perkins Centre, said: “With the most recent data suggesting two in three people — or 67 per cent of the Australian population are in the overweight or obesity range, this is obviously a very topical issue.”

A ‘hazard ratio’ was awarded to each individual which highlighted their level of risk. The higher the number, the higher their risk was.

People who drank above UK alcohol guidelines nearly had a 600 per cent higher chance of being diagnosed with alcoholic fatty liver disease, than those who drank a safer amount. Their hazard ratio was recorded at 5.83.

Those deemed overweight or obese who drank within or above alcohol guidelines had more than a 50 per cent greater risk of developing liver disease compared to normal weight participants who consumed alcohol at the same level.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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