Alcoholic liver disease is an ancient condition with a documented epidemiology of more than 2500 years. In its end stage of cirrhosis it is the 3rd or 4th commonest cause of death in adults in the USA.
The threshold beyond which alcoholic liver disease may occur is 35 units of alcohol per week for women and 50 units of alcohol per week for men. One unit of alcohol is equivalent to half of a pint of beer or one measure of spirits or 10 g of alcohol. Only the amount of alcohol, and not the nature of the beverage, is important
The exact mechanism of alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis is not known. Genetic factors may be important as only 10-20% of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, and 33% of heavy drinkers have no hepatic consequences.
Ethanol induces the synthesis of hepatic gamma glutamyl transferase.
Last reviewed 01/2018