The results of a published study confirm that when young men drink alcohol, they are putting themselves at a higher level of risk for severe liver disease over time. This risk factor depends on the number of servings the young men consume and affects them for up to 39 years, researchers have found.
Hannes Hagström, MD, PhD, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, explained that the precise amount necessary to damage the liver is not clear. Several factors determine alcohol’s influence on an individual’s liver, such as:
• Drinking patterns
• Type of alcohol ingested
Multiple Risk Factors for Alcoholism
Dr. Hagström went on to say that the new study suggests that the risks associated with alcohol consumption are already present early in life. It’s likely that the risk increases the longer a man is exposed to alcohol, and that someone with a history of long-term alcohol use is at higher risk for developing severe liver disease.
The researchers looked at data from a 1969-1970 Swedish national population study. All the 49,321 participants (men aged 18-20 years) had been enlisted for conscription, and 43,296 were available to answer follow-up questions in 2009.
The participants filled out questionnaires about their alcohol consumption. The results were as follows:
• 43.2 percent reported 1-5 grams per day
• 4.6 percent reported more than 60 grams per day
• 6.1 percent abstained from consuming alcohol
In the US, a standard alcoholic beverage (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor) contains 14 grams of alcohol.
Study Participants Followed for Years
During a follow-up conducted over the next 39 years, 2,661 men received a formal alcohol abuse diagnosis. Of these men, 243 were later diagnosed with severe liver disease. The average time from the participants’ conscription to the first diagnosis of severe liver disease was 25.5 years.
Compared to men who didn’t drink alcohol, the risk for an alcohol abuse diagnosis increased moderately for men who reported 1-5 grams per day. It was highly elevated for men who reported a consumption rate of more than 60 grams per day.
The researchers admit that the study has limitations: drinking at a young age is only one part of a person’s lifetime pattern of alcohol use. It didn’t take the effect of binge drinking into account, for example.
This shows that even people who may not be considered addicts, alcoholics or even heavy users are still likely to cause considerable damage to themselves over time.