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Cold Weather Linked to Higher Rates of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Apr 24, 2017 05:20 AM EDT
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A new study by an international team of researchers revealed that people living in colder and less sunny regions of the world are more likely to develop a disease caused by excessive drinking of alcohol, leading to irreversible liver scarring.

The study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, showed that heavy drinking causes a perception of warmth. Additionally, lesser sunlight has been long associated with depression, which could also lead to heavy intake of alcohol. Due to these, colder cities tend to have higher rates of excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable liver cirrhosis.

READ: Seasonal Affective Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies of Season-Induced Depression

"As average temperatures and yearly hours of sunshine decrease and latitude increases, rates of alcohol-attributable cirrhosis increase," said lead author Dr Neil D. Shah, from the University of Carolina, in a press release.

"This suggests that drinking alcohol excessively to combat the cold and dark could put people at increased risk of suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis," he added.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 193 countries taken from the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization databases. To determine the influence of colder temperature and lesser sunlight on alcohol cirrhosis, the researchers collated information on average temperature, climate, latitude and hours of yearly sunshine of the city, alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

The researchers found that the climate and geographical location of a city could greatly influence the burden of liver cirrhosis. In every one degree Celsius increase in temperature, the researchers observed a 0.3 percent decrease in alcohol-attributable fraction (AAF) of cirrhosis.

Alcohol-attributable liver cirrhosis is a liver disease caused by excessive drinking that could result to permanent scarring of the liver. It makes up around half of all the causes of liver cirrhosis and is responsible for an estimated 493,000 deaths globally every year, which is equivalent to 0.9 percent of all deaths worldwide.

In the U.S., about 38,170 people die from liver cirrhosis every year, as per the CDC. Liver cirrhosis can also be caused by hepatitis and can develop into liver cancer. It can be diagnosed using blood tests, imaging tests or biopsy.

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