Resources on the Liver



While most people know about heart disease, and the serious effect it has on their life if the heart becomes damaged, most are completely unaware of the many critical functions performed by their liver, or how precarious life becomes once the liver is damaged. 

Heavy alcohol consumption can damage the liver (damage usually develops after more than a decade of heavy drinking). Women are at a greater risk of liver damage than men, because women produce less of the stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol. 

According to the National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive, & Kidney Diseases, "the amount of alcohol that can injure the liver varies greatly from person to person. In women, as few as two to three drinks per day have been linked with cirrhosis and in men, as few as three to four drinks per day. Alcohol seems to injure the liver by blocking the normal metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates."

Cirrhosis  is scarring of the liver that has progressed to the point that the structure of the liver is abnormal. In the United States, cirrhosis is the eighth leading cause of death by disease, killing about 25,000 people each year

Liver transplants are still quite uncommon (approx. 300 in Canada a year) compared to the thousands of operations on other organs (e.g. coronary bypass operations).

The following information sources that can help explain liver risks or health changes to the liver from high levels of alcohol use.


Canadian Liver Foundation:

CLF offers a variety of information about the liver, and different liver diseases. It still seems to downplay discussion of alcohol, noting in its publications and website that "Alcohol is only one cause of the 100 causes of liver disease." Nothing specific to older adults, but good information overall. Two most relevant sections are:

a) About Your Liver


Written in a question and answer form, it briefs describes,

- What the liver does

- How alcohol affects the liver

- How much alcohol is safe? (identifies less than 2 drinks a day, less than 14 drinks a week)

- Symptoms of alcohol-related liver damage

- Whether alcohol-related liver damage be reversed or cured


b) Cirrhosis of the Liver:

It briefly decribes

- What cirrhosis of the liver is

- The major causes of cirrhosis

- Some early symptoms of the disease

- What happens as liver function decreases

- Problems are associated with the later stages of cirrhosis

- How cirrhosis is diagnosed

- Treatments used to fight liver cirrhosis



American Journal of Physiology- Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology

Description: Well suited to physicians' needs is the American Journal of Physiology- Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. Nothing specific to seniors and alcohol (ethanol), but there is interesting material describing things like the gender differences in alcohol induced liver injury ("It is well known that women show a greater susceptibility to alcohol-induced liver injury than men"). The journal abstracts here explain the mechanisms behind that and more.


Page last updated Sunday October 31, 2004

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