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Approved Research

Elucidating the role of varying levels of alcohol consumption in the progression to liver damage in people with high metabolic risk /non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Principal Investigator: Dr Helen Jarvis
Approved Research ID: 63939
Approval date: January 29th 2021

Lay summary

Liver disease is one of the top three causes of death in people of working age in the UK, and the number of people with liver disease is increasing. Liver disease is difficult to spot in its early stages, and is often detected late, when cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver has already developed. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is now the most common type of liver disease in Europe and North America. The main risk factors for NAFLD are diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight and having high levels of fat in your blood - collectively these are known as the metabolic risk factors. Some people with these risk factors also drink moderate amounts of alcohol, which may make liver damage worse. We don't currently have good evidence to tell us if moderate amounts of alcohol increase liver damage in people with metabolic risk factors so advice to these people around alcohol consumption is not standardised.

Aims of the research:

! To use the UK Biobank to gather evidence that links metabolic risk factors and moderate alcohol intake to the likelihood of future liver damage.

! To develop a structured way of helping GPs, and other health-care professionals, use these known risk factors to more accurately predict which of their patients will develop liver damage.

This research project is being carried out as part of a wider PhD research project looking to improve the ways we manage liver disease in primary care. This part of the project is expected to last for 1 year after the data is received. 

The impact on public health will be adding to the evidence around which individuals with metabolic risk factors are most at risk of severe liver disease. This means clinicians and public health campaigns can intervene at an earlier stage to provide the best advice and refer individuals for lifestyle interventions earlier. The aim of these interventions is to stop the progression to severe liver damage in people at most risk.