Study Finds Hispanics at Greater Risk of Alcoholic Liver Disease

By May Wilkerson 02/25/15

For the first time researchers have linked ethnic background to ALD.

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Hispanics may be at a higher risk for alcoholic liver disease than other ethnicities, according to a new study.

Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) refers to a range of liver diseases, including alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, caused by a consuming high amounts of alcohol over a significant time period. More than 15,000 people in the U.S. die each year from ALD, says researchers. But not everyone who imbibes heavily develops the condition, and a new study is the first to suggest a link between ALD and ethnic background.

The findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, show that even when other factors are removed, more Hispanic people get ALD than other ethnicities, and they develop it at earlier ages.

“For the first time, we showed that Hispanics present at a four to 10 years younger age than Caucasians and African Americans,” said Valentina Medici, associate professor of internal medicine at UC Davis Health System and co-author of the study. “Also, Hispanics with alcoholic cirrhosis were more likely to be hospitalized than Caucasians, indicative of a possibly more severe disease.”

Christopher Bowlus, professor at UC Davis Health System in California, said the findings are important because they “lay the groundwork for future clinical and laboratory studies to understand the interactions between alcohol, genes and the environment.”

And while Hispanics may be at a greater risk of drinking-related liver damage, Bowlus cautions that anyone who drinks more than a moderate amount of alcohol is at risk. “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," he said.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.