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Obesity greater risk for a fatty liver than alcohol

According to a LiU study published in the journal: Annals of Medicine, obesity and insulin resistance poses a greater risk for fatty liver disease than previously thought.

Fredrik NyströmThe fact that alcohol can cause fatty liver disease has long been known. Subsequent research has shown that obesity and insulin resistance can also cause fatty liver disease, which in turn is strongly associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Up until now it was considered that by over half a glass of wine a day for men and one glass for women is sufficient to cause fatty liver disease. Therefore, many people suffering from fatty liver disease are urged to abstain from alcohol. If the liver disease still does not improve, then doctors have assumed that the patient is defying doctors' advice and still drinking alcohol.

Fredrik Nystrom and Stergios Kechagias are two LiU researchers that have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol daily do not cause fatty liver disease. Their study involved 44 people who either abstained completely from alcohol or drank a glass of red wine a day (women) and two drinks a day (men). The study subjects were examined before and after including blood tests and by measuring liver fat content using magnetic resonance.

“It turned out that the quantity of fat in the liver depended on obesity and insulin resistance and were not influenced by whether the subjects consumed alcohol or not. Three months later, the subjects had still not developed fatty liver disease or increased liver values”, says Stergios Kechagias a liver specialist and associate professor at Linköping University.

Furthermore those who drank red wine reduced their levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol by 16 % compared to those who refrained from alcohol.

“There is a strong association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease”, says Fredrik Nystrom, professor of internal medicine at Linköping University.

Fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis and is the most common liver disease in Western countries. Approximately one in four Swedes suffer from fatty liver disease.

Text: Birgitta Weibull


Page manager: johan.jager@liu.se
Last updated: 2012-12-10