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

By European Association For The Study Of The Liver, PRNE
Thursday, December 9, 2010

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

ATHENS, December 10, 2010 - 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. 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. 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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For further information or to request an interview, please do not hesitate to contact the EASL press office on: Email: media.easl2010 at ; Isabelle Scali, +44-207-331-2324; Travis Taylor, Office: +44-207-331-5472.

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