More than half of regular drinkers with concerns over their health in respect to alcohol have shown an increased risk of death, according to a study.
Liver tests on more than 1,000 people classed as the "worried well" showed high levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) – which increase risk of mortality when they are in high levels in the bloodstream.
The University College London trial, reported in the latest edition of the journal Hepatology, involved 561 women and 478 men who were apparently healthy but who drank regularly and had some concerns about the effect this might have on their health – though were not worried enough to consult a GP.
The research team said: "The results of this study reveal an unexpectedly high prevalence of abnormalities in ALT and AST in the worried-well population in the United Kingdom."
The authors, led by Dr Diana Romero, went on: "More than 50% of the population studied are at higher risk of mortality compared with age-matched and sex-matched controls."
The researchers said the findings supported the need for early screening for liver disease, especially as treatments short of transplant were often only effective in the early stages of the illness.
Liver disease is the fifth biggest killers in the UK and the numbers dying from it are rising.