Daily Drinkers at Risk for Serious Liver Disease

Frequency of Drinking Is a Factor

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Daily Drinkers at Greater Risk. © Getty Images

If you are a daily drinker, you can reduce your risk of developing liver disease significantly if you start planning several alcohol-free days every week.

People who drink alcohol daily, compared to weekly binge drinkers, are at risk for developing more serious forms of liver disease, including cirrhosis or progressive fibrosis, according to a study done in the United Kingdom.

Daily Drinking a Risk Factor

If you started drinking at an early age -- around age 15 or earlier -- and developed a habit of daily drinking, research shows these to be the biggest risk factors in developing life-threatening alcohol-related liver disease.

Weekly binge drinkers can develop liver disease also, but daily or near daily heavy drinking has been shown to cause an increasing number of deaths in the U.K. due to liver disease.

Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

The Southhampton researchers began their study on the theory that the rise in alcohol-related liver deaths in the U.K. were related to an corresponding increase in episodic binge drinking in the country. They were surprised to find that most of the study participants with severe liver disease were daily drinkers, not weekly binge drinkers.

The researchers studied 234 people who had some form of liver disease. Their findings included:

  • 106 had alcohol-related liver disease (ALD).
  • 80 had cirrhosis or progressive fibrosis.
  • 71% of those with ALD were daily drinkers.
  • Those with ALD started drinking at the average age of 15.
  • ALD patients had significantly more drinking days after age 20.

Less Drinking, Less Risk

Compared with patients who had cirrhosis or fibrosis, those with other forms of liver disease drank sparingly, with only 10 of those in the study moderate drinkers on four or more days a week.

The lighter drinkers had less serious forms of liver disease.

The liver performs dozens of critical functions. When the liver becomes diseased or damaged, it can affect your health in many ways and eventually lead to death.

Daily Drinking More Risky Than Occasional Binge Drinking

This U.K. study suggests that binge drinking alcohol may be less harmful to the liver than daily, long-term drinking; however, although binge drinking may be safer than constant drinking, minimal alcohol is the likely the safest route to health.

Other studies have linked daily alcohol consumption to the development of alcohol-related liver disease. Data from The Dionysos Study indicated that the risk threshold for developing cirrhosis and non-cirrhosis liver disease is 30 grams (a little more than 1 ounce) of alcohol per day. The risk increases with larger daily intake, the study found.

It's the Pattern of Drinking That Is Risky

Another research study found that although the average volume of alcohol consumed is a factor in developing liver disease - and many other chronic diseases - a daily pattern of drinking is an additional influencing factor.

The consensus seems to be, if you drink alcohol daily, you could be putting yourself at risk for developing alcohol-related liver disease, regardless of the amount of alcohol you consume. You may want to consider skipping a few days each week.


Bellentani S, et al. "Drinking habits as cofactors of risk for alcohol induced liver damage. The Dionysos Study Group." Gut December 1997

Hatton J, et al. "Drinking Patterns, Dependency and Life-Time Drinking History in Alcohol-Related Liver Disease." Addiction 10 Feb. 2009.

Rehm J, et al. "The relationship of average volume of alcohol consumption and patterns of drinking to burden of disease: an overview." Addiction September 2003

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