Liver Experts’ Consensus: European Citizens are Drinking Themselves to Death

December 10, 2010

ATHENS, December 10, 2010 /PRNewswire/ –

– New Research and Measures to Tackle Societal Alcohol Consumption
Announced at Liver Disease Conference

Europe is failing to deal with the life-threatening effects of excessive
and regular alcohol consumption on its citizens’ health. Severe diseases,
such as liver cirrhosis, are growing at an alarming rate and are affecting
people at a younger age than in the past.[1] Since a number of current
policies have not been successful in addressing health issues linked with
alcohol across Europe,[2] liver experts discussed a range of practical
solutions to combat alcohol-related illness and death during a monothematic
conference hosted by the European Association for the Study of the Liver
(EASL) today.

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Liver disease is the main health burden attributable to alcohol and
Europe has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world (11 litres of
pure alcohol per adult per year).[3] One in fifteen adults suffers from
serious health conditions because of alcohol consumption – making it the
third largest cause of early death and illness after tobacco and high blood
pressure.[1,4] One in seven European adults (aged 15 or over) consume more
than 35cl of alcohol/week (men) or 18cl of alcohol/week (women) on average
and over one in five report a heavy drinking episode (44cl of alcohol/week)
at least once a week.[4]

One of the key issues addressed at the conference was the increasing
number of liver deaths resulting from daily or near-daily heavy drinking in
the adult population, in addition to binge drinking in young people. Daily
drinking carries more than twice the risk of liver damage compared with
intermittent drinking once or twice per week.[5] The risk of liver disease
becomes significant at approximately 20cl of alcohol/week (less than two
standard bottles of wine), and increases dramatically over 40cl of

At the conference, liver experts proposed the reassessment of the concept
of alcohol units across Europe by only referring to centilitres of pure
alcohol and standardised screening of all patients’ alcohol consumption,
particularly amongst obese patients who are at greater risk.

It is not just a health challenge either. The strong hold of the drinks
industry in challenging recommendations from health experts in relation to
the promotion of alcohol to the general public has been a significant barrier
to change.

Professor Mark Thursz, EASL Vice-Secretary, said: “Clear messages around
healthy drinking need to be developed and communicated to the public. The
concept of responsible drinking can be dangerous if it refers only to the
detrimental psychosocial effects (addiction, drink driving, disorderly
behaviour), as drinking to levels that address these issues is still
detrimental to the liver and people’s health. This is why so many policies
have not been overall successful in addressing alcohol’s impact on citizen’s
health so far.”

“As one of Europe’s key health determinants, alcohol is under-addressed -
particularly compared to smoking and obesity. There is a pressing need for
the European Institutions to support more comprehensive epidemiological
research that will help establish alcohol’s true burden on health. Clear
economic and legal sanctions – already the case with obesity – with food
labelling, and smoking – advertising & public space bans – are also required.”



[1] Alcohol-related harm in Europe. Factsheet. DG SANCO. 2006.


l_factsheet_en.pdf. Accessed 25/11/2010.

[2] Peter Anderson, Dan Chisholm, Daniela C Fuhr. Effectiveness and
cost-effectiveness of policies and programmes to reduce the harm caused by
alcohol. Lancet 2009; 373: 2234-46.

[3] Alcohol in Europe: Key facts.
pe_key_facts. Accessed 19/11/2010.

[4] Handbook for action on alcohol. World Health Organization Regional
Office for Europe. 2009.

[5] Dawson DA, Li TK, Grant BF. A prospective study of risk drinking: at
risk for what? Drug Alcohol Depend. 95(1-2), 62-72 (2008).

[6] Nick Sheron, Emma Brandish. Drinking patterns and the risk of serious
liver disease. Expert Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 4(3), xxx-xxx (2010)

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SOURCE European Association for the Study of the Liver

Source: newswire

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