Alcoholic Liver Disease

Who is at Risk for Alcoholic Liver Disease?

Although it has been estimated that as many as 10 percent of Americans abuse alcohol, most people who drink excessively do not develop liver disease. The reason some people can drink excessive amounts of alcohol and not develop liver disease while other individuals who have only a few drinks per day will develop liver disease, is not known. It is impossible to predict who will develop alcoholic liver disease, but it is known that people who drink large quantities of alcohol over a long period of time are generally at greatest risk of developing ALD.

Other factors that contribute to the development of alcoholic liver disease:

  • Gender – While alcoholism is more common among men, women are more susceptible to the toxicity of alcohol probably due to the fact that women generally weigh less then men.
  • Genetics – Individuals who metabolize alcohol faster, need to drink more than the individuals who metabolize alcohol more slowly, thus they run a higher risk of developing liver damage. Genetic mutations that affect alcohol metabolism increase the risk of alcoholic liver disease.
  • Other Liver Diseases – Any type of liver disease is worsened by the consumption of any amount of alcohol.
  • Malnutrition – Consumption of large amounts of alcohol for many people leads to malnutrition for two reasons – alcohol prevents the body from properly metabolizing and absorbing essential nutrients and alcoholics tend to substitute alcohol for food, thereby robbing the body of needed essential nutrients and calories.
  • Drugs and Alcohol Combined – Because many drugs and chemicals can potentially affect the liver, the combination of the two can be extremely toxic, causing liver damage.

American Liver Foundation “Alcoholic Liver Disease” Retrieved March 4, 2011

Mayo Clinic “Alcoholic Hepatitis” Retrieved March 4, 2011

Medline Plus “Alcoholic Liver Disease” Retrieved March 4, 2011

Palmer, M.D., Melissa. Dr. Melissa Palmer’s Guide to Hepatitis & Liver Disease. New York: Avery Trade, 2004.

Worman, MD Howard J. The Liver Disorders and Hepatitis Sourcebook. McGraw-Hill, 2006