Being overweight can worsen the liver damage caused by alcohol

Around Australia thousands of people are currently partaking in Dry July, abstaining from alcohol for a month to raise money for cancer charities.

One of the benefits of abstaining from alcohol is allowing your liver the chance to recover while you have a dry month. However, new research has revealed that alcohol doesn’t affect all livers equally.

A study from the University of Sydney has revealed that the harmful effects of alcohol are amplified in people who were overweight or obese.

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“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,” said senior author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

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

Although the researchers drew upon data from nearly half a million people in the UK Biobank, they said the findings could safely be applied to the Australian population.

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Information was examined from 465,437 people aged 40 to 69 years, with medical and health details collected over an average of 10.5 years.

Lead author Dr Elif Inan-Eroglu said the results suggest people carrying excess weight may need to be more aware of risks around alcohol consumption.

“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,” Dr Inan-Eroglu said.

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For the purposes of the study, a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 was considered overweight and over 30 was considered obese.

The researchers say the findings of the study emphasise how alcohol drinking guidelines and doctor’s advice may need to consider the year-on-year increasing trend of obesity and overweight prevalence in Australia and its compounding health impacts.

Current National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) alcohol guidelines, last updated in 2020, state healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than four on any one day.

“The current alcohol guidelines are based on reviews of available evidence, but future updates must take into account overweight as a liver disease risk amplifying factor,” Prof. Stamatakis said.

“Briefly mentioning obesity in the current guidelines may not be enough. Overweight and obesity affect over two-thirds of Australians, which raises the need to develop a specific alcohol drinking recommendation for this population majority group.

“Based on our study’s findings, people who are in the overweight range, not only obese, should consume alcohol cautiously, and perhaps aim for an amount well below the generic NHMRC guidelines.”

How much alcohol do you consume in a standard week? Are you taking part in Dry July? How much money have you raised so far? Why not share your achievements in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben



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