Women May Be More Susceptible to Liver Disease

liver diseaseEven moderate use of alcohol is believed to have harmless—some believe health-enhancing—effects on the body.[1] It’s no secret that red wine has been linked to cardiovascular health.1 However, new research is denouncing past research, stating that even mild use of alcohol may place some women at risk for some serious health risks, especially liver disease.1

As women are generally smaller than men in stature and have less body water, their liver is more susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol.1 Dr. Howard Monsour, the Chief of Hepatology at Houston Methodist Hospital, states, “As a result, women who are already predisposed by genetics to have liver disease should limit their alcohol consumption or stay away from alcohol altogether.”1

There is a misconception that you have to be an alcoholic to develop serious liver disease; however, if a genetic disposition is present, drinking even a small amount could be damaging for a woman’s liver.1

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the population has a genetic disposition to cirrhosis of the liver; therefore, knowing if a family history of cirrhosis exists before making the decision to drink alcohol is important.1 In fact, one drink a day could be too much for a woman who is genetically predisposed to cirrhosis of the liver.1 For one drink for a woman has twice the effect as one drink does for a man.1 Drinking a beer rather than hard liquor isn’t any better, either. One beer is equal to one shot of whisky or one, four-ounce glass of wine—the alcohol content is the same in all three.1

A person’s liver stores energy and nutrients, and it produces proteins and enzymes necessary for good health.1 Protecting the body from disease, the liver eliminates toxins, and alcohol is a toxin.1

Monsour states, “When women drink the same amount, less is dispersed and the concentration is higher. They also have a lower activity of a metabolizing  enzyme in the stomach called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).”1

ADH helps to convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is eventually metabolized to carbon dioxide and water.1 As women have less of the enzyme, a larger amount of alcohol reaches the blood and eventually can lead to cirrhosis of the liver in susceptible persons.1 Unfortunately, this disease normally has no visible signs until liver damage is too extensive.1

As people venture out to parties and family gatherings this holiday season, drinking more is an expected occurrence.1 However, the key is to make sure it does not become a habit.1 Knowing your limit will help avoid liver disease.1 Think before you drink.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2013). Some Women Drinkers More Susceptible to Liver Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/17/some-women-drinkers-more-susceptible-to-liver-disease/63428.html

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