Effect of body mass index and alcohol consumption on liver disease: analysis of data from two prospective cohort studies

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether alcohol consumption and raised body mass index (BMI) act together to increase risk of liver disease.

DESIGN: Analysis of data from prospective cohort studies.

SETTING: Scotland.

PARTICIPANTS: Data were from two of the Midspan prospective cohort studies (9559 men): "Main" study 1965-8, participants from workplaces across central belt of Scotland, population of island of Tiree, and mainland relatives, and "Collaborative" study, 1970-3, participants from 27 workplaces in Glasgow, Clydebank, and Grangemouth. Follow-up was to 31 December 2007 (median 29 years, range 0.13-42). We divided participants into nine groups based on measures of body mass index (BMI) (underweight/normal weight <25, overweight 25 to <30, and obese >or=30) and alcohol consumption (none, 1-14, and >or=15 units per week).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Liver disease morbidity and mortality.

RESULTS: 80 (0.8%) men died with liver disease as the main cause and 146 (1.5%) with liver disease as any cause. In the Collaborative study, 196 men (3.3%) had liver disease defined by a death, admission, or cancer registration. BMI and alcohol consumption were strongly associated with liver disease mortality in analyses adjusted for other confounders (P=0.001 and P<0.0001 respectively). Drinkers of 15 or more units per week in any BMI category and obese drinkers had raised relative rates for all definitions of liver disease, compared with underweight/normal weight non-drinkers. Drinkers of 15 or more units per week had adjusted relative rates for liver disease mortality of 3.16 (95% confidence interval 1.28 to 7.8) for underweight/normal weight men, 7.01 (3.02 to 16.3) for overweight, and 18.9 (6.84 to 52.4) for obese men. The relative rate for obese men who consumed 1-14 units per week was 5.3 (1.36 to 20.7). The relative excess risk due to interaction between BMI and alcohol consumption was 5.58 (1.09 to 10.1); synergy index=2.89 (1.29 to 6.47).

CONCLUSIONS: Raised BMI and alcohol consumption are both related to liver disease, with evidence of a supra-additive interaction between the two. The occurrence of both factors in the same populations should inform health promotion and public health policies.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Hart C.L.; Morrison D.S.; Batty G.D.; Mitchell R.J.; Davey Smith G.
  • Issue

    BMJ / pages c1240- / volume 340
  • Published Date