Hispanics May Develop Alcoholic Liver Disease Earlier

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FRIDAY, Feb. 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanics may develop alcoholic liver disease at an earlier age than whites or blacks, according to a new study that links ethnicity and drinking-related liver problems.

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) includes conditions such as alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. It's is a common cause of liver problems in the United States. ALD is responsible for more than 15,000 U.S. deaths each year, according to the researchers.

The findings were published in the March online issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"The findings in this study are important for two reasons. First, they demonstrate the difference ethnicity has on the clinical manifestation of ALD. Second, they lay the ground work for future clinical and laboratory studies to understand the interactions between alcohol, genes and the environment," Christopher Bowlus said in a journal news release.

Bowlus, acting chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at UC Davis Health System in California, cautioned: "No one should feel that they are free from ALD. If you drink beyond a moderate amount, there is a risk you will develop serious ALD. If you are Hispanic, you should be particularly concerned because you may be at even greater risk of serious liver damage from alcohol."

For the study, the researchers reviewed the medical records of almost 800 ALD patients treated at the University of California, Davis Medical Center between 2002 and 2010.

This study is the first to show that Hispanics seem to develop ALD at a younger age than other races. The study found that Hispanics are diagnosed with ALD between four and 10 years younger than whites and blacks, according to study author Valentina Medici, associate professor of internal medicine at UC Davis Health System.

"In addition, alcoholic Hispanics tend to be more frequently obese and diabetic than the other ethnicities. Also, Hispanics with alcoholic cirrhosis were more likely to be hospitalized than Caucasians, indicative of a possibly more severe disease," she added in the news release.

Even when ALD patients with obesity and diabetes were excluded from the analysis, Hispanics were still younger than whites, which suggests "Hispanics have most likely many risk factors that contribute to the development of their liver disease," Medici said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about alcoholic liver disease.