News Release

Predicting severe liver disease: Obesity, insulin, diabetes, cholesterol, alcohol

ILC 2017: Type 2 diabetes is the main predictor of severe liver disease among alcohol risk drinkers

Peer-Reviewed Publication

European Association for the Study of the Liver

April 22, 2017, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: A study conducted in Finland, presented today, demonstrates that in the general population, central obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, lipid abnormalities and high alcohol consumption were the strongest predictors of severe liver disease. The study, presented at The International Liver Congress™ 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, also found that the only significant predictor of severe liver disease among individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol (more than 210 g/week in men, and more than 140 g/week in women), is diabetes.

Using metabolic and alcohol consumption data from the Finnish Health 2000 Study, a nationally representative cohort, the researchers investigated which metabolic factors best predicted severe liver complications and classified the results by the amount of alcohol consumed. For those with no or mild alcohol use, age, total cholesterol, HOMA-index (a measure of resistance to insulin and how well the cells that secrete insulin are functioning) and waist circumference predicted the development of liver disease.

According to the World Health Organization, Europe is the heaviest drinking region in the world in terms of prevalence of alcohol consumption; therefore alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is an important issue for Europe to address.1 Whilst many people who consume more than 60 g of alcohol a day (equivalent to half a bottle of wine or more than a litre of beer) will develop steatosis (accumulation of fat in the liver), only a minority will go on to develop the more serious condition of alcoholic liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis) and between 10 to 20% will develop cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of the liver).2 Alcohol consumption is responsible for nearly 5.9% of all deaths globally and 139 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost due to premature death from alcohol.1

"The results of this study can help us identify which people are at risk of developing severe liver disease, so that we can work with them to reduce those risks," said Dr Fredrik Åberg, Transplantation and Liver Surgery Clinic, Helsinki University, Finland, and lead author of the study. "It's important that the risk factors identified in our study are considered for use in future risk models so that doctors can identify and counsel those patients at risk for developing liver disease."

The study included 6,732 people without known liver disease who were representative of the general Finnish population and had participated in the Health 2000 Study, which was conducted from 2000 to 2001. Follow-up data on liver related hospital admissions, deaths and liver cancer were collected over the following decade.

"These data emphasise the important role of diabetes and metabolic syndrome in the development of liver disease, reinforcing the need to consider liver disease in such patient groups," said Prof Philip Newsome, Centre for Liver Research & Professor of Experimental Hepatology, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and EASL Governing Board Member.


About The International Liver Congress™

This annual congress is the biggest event in the EASL calendar, attracting scientific and medical experts from around the world to learn about the latest in liver research. Attending specialists present, share, debate and conclude on the latest science and research in hepatology, working to enhance the treatment and management of liver disease in clinical practice. This year, the congress is expected to attract approximately 10,000 delegates from all corners of the globe. The International Liver Congress™ 2017 will take place from April 19 - 23, at the RAI Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

About The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)

Since its foundation in 1966, this not-for-profit organisation has grown to over 4,000 members from all over the world, including many of the leading hepatologists in Europe and beyond. EASL is the leading liver association in Europe, having evolved into a major European Association with international influence, with an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education and promoting changes in European liver policy.


For more information, please contact the ILC Press Office at:

Onsite location reference

Session title: General session III and award ceremony II
Time, date and location of session: 10:00 - 12:00, Saturday 22 April, Hall 5
Presenter: Fredrik Åberg, Finland
Abstract: Interaction between alcohol use and metabolic components in predicting severe liver disease in the general population - a decade follow-up of a nationally representative cohort (GS015) 11:15 - 11:30

Author disclosures

Research grants from Finnish research foundations (Wilhelm and Else Stockmanns Foundation, Liv och Hälsa, and Finska Läkaresällskapet). Travel expenses to scientific conferences within the past three years: Astellas, Chiesi, Gilead.


1 World Health Organization. Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. Available from: Last accessed: April 2017.
2 European Association for the Study of the Liver. EASL Clinical Practical Guidelines: Management of Alcoholic Liver Disease. Available from: Last accessed: April 2017.

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