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Liver disease concern for young overweight men

Tuesday March 21st, 2017

Overweight or obese young men have an increased risk of developing severe liver disease or liver cancer in later life, researchers from Sweden say today.

The risk applies regardless of alcohol intake, researchers found.

Researchers from Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, found that the association between high body mass index (BMI) and the future development of severe liver disease appears starts at even an early age. The risk is further heightened if men go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Dr Hannes Hagström, of the university’s Centre for Digestive Diseases, and team undertook an observational study, using register data from more than 1.2 million Swedish men enlisted for military conscription between 1969 and 1996, to look at how BMI in early adolescents impacts on liver problems later in life.

The men were followed up from one year after conscription until 31 December 2012 and the researchers found that during follow-up of more than 34 million person-years, there were 5,281 cases of severe liver disease, including 251 cases of liver cancer.

They also discovered that overweight men were nearly 50% more likely and obese men more than twice as likely to develop liver disease in later life than men who were normal weight.

The highest risk was among men who developed type 2 diabetes as they were found to have a three times greater risk of liver problems when they were older compared with non-diabetic, normal weight men.

Alcohol consumption and smoking were taken into account and men who were diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease during follow-up were excluded.

Writing in Gut, the researchers said the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity could result in an increase in severe liver disease cases.

“This could have implications for public health decision making, strengthening the need of targeted intervention against overweight and obesity at an early age and specifically highlights the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus as a risk factor for liver disease,” they conclude.

“Screening of men with type 2 diabetes mellitus for presence of manifest liver disease using non-invasive, inexpensive scoring systems could be a way forward.

“Interventions to reduce the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity should be implemented from an early age to reduce the future burden of severe liver disease on individuals and society.”

Hagström H, Tynelius P, Rasmussen F. High BMI in late adolescence predicts future severe liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma: a national, population-based cohort study in 1.2 million men. Gut. 20 March 2017. doi 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313622 [abstract]

Tags: Europe | Fitness | Infancy to Adolescence | Internal Medicine | Men's Health

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