How Often Does Liver Disease Develop in Healthy Young Males…Over 65 Year Study Period

J Uhanova et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 2417-2424. Chronic Liver Disease and Metabolic Comorbidities in Healthy Young Males Followed for 65 Years: The Manitoba Follow-up Study

Methods: 3,983 air force men were enrolled in the Manitoba Follow-up Study in 1948. The comprehensive database on results of routine physicals and health encounters was examined for evidence of chronic liver disease (CLD) and metabolic syndrome (MetS). 

Key findings:

  • 5.2% of men developed CLD and 6.4% MetS
  • Among the 206 with CLD, 162 (79%) were diagnosed with CLD as a non-terminal event; however, CLD was clinically significant with 50.5% (n=104) with cirrhosis (of whom 56 had hepatic decompensation)
  • The most common etiologies for CLD were alcohol-related liver disease (32.5%, n=67) and fatty liver disease (20%, n=41); chronic viral hepatitis (B & C) accounted for 4.4% (n=9). In 20%, the etiology was not specified
  • The relative risk of mortality in men with vs. without CLD was 3.33 (95% CI – 2.83 to 3.91, p < .0001)
  • An increasing gradient of risk for CLD was apparent with increasing numbers of MetS components; the HR of 3.67, 5.97 and 14.3 for IR/DM (insulin resistance /diabetes mellitus), IR/DM + one component, and IR/DM + two or more components respectively

Discussion –The authors note that the lifetime risk of CLD was much higher in NHANES studies (11.8% to 14.8% prevalence); this is attributed to active surveillance for liver disease in the NHANES study (and different study population). It is also likely that there is a substantially increased risk over the last 65 years due to factors like increasing rates of obesity as well as possibly higher rates of alcohol use and infections.

My take: Among healthy 18 year old males, a substantial number develop chronic liver disease, much of which could be prevented by limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy diet/exercise.

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