1. Epidemiology and Global Health
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Alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with structural changes in multiple organ systems

  1. Evangelos Evangelou
  2. Hideaki Suzuki
  3. Wenjia Bai
  4. Raha Pazoki
  5. He Gao
  6. Paul M Matthews MD, PhD
  7. Paul Elliott  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Ioannina, Greece
  2. Imperial College London, United Kingdom
  3. Brunel University London, United Kingdom
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e65325 doi: 10.7554/eLife.65325

Abstract

Background: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with damage to various organs, but its multi-organ effects have not been characterised across the usual range of alcohol drinking in a large general population sample.

Methods: We assessed global effect sizes of alcohol consumption on quantitative magnetic resonance imaging phenotypic measures of the brain, heart, aorta and liver of UK-Biobank participants who reported drinking alcohol.

Results: We found a monotonic association of higher alcohol consumption with lower normalised brain volume across the range of alcohol intakes (–1.7´10-3±0.76´10-3 per doubling of alcohol consumption, P=3.0´10-14). Alcohol consumption also was associated directly with measures of left ventricular mass index and left ventricular and atrial volume indices. Liver fat increased by a mean of 0.15% per doubling of alcohol consumption.

Conclusions: Our results imply that there is not a 'safe threshold' below which there are no toxic effects of alcohol. Current public health guidelines concerning alcohol consumption may need to be revisited.

Funding: See acknowledgements

Data availability

For this project, UK Biobank has granted access to our team through approved applications with ID #13375 and #18545. Individual-level data cannot be shared with researchers who are not registered as collaborators (https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-your-research/manage-your-project). Guidance on how to apply for the various types of UK Biobank can be found in the following link https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-your-research/apply-for-access.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Evangelos Evangelou

    Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece
    Competing interests
    Evangelos Evangelou, E.E. acknowledges consultancy fees from OpenDNA.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5488-2999
  2. Hideaki Suzuki

    Department of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  3. Wenjia Bai

    Department of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Raha Pazoki

    Department of Life Sciences, Brunel University London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  5. He Gao

    School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  6. Paul M Matthews MD, PhD

    Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    Paul M Matthews MD, PhD, acknowledges consultancy fees from Roche, Adelphi Communications, Celgene and Biogen. He has received honoraria or speakers' honoraria from Novartis, Biogen, Medscape, Adelphi Communications and Roche and has received research or educational funds from Biogen, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Nodthera. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the Board of Ipsen Pharmaceuticals..
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1619-8328
  7. Paul Elliott

    School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    p.elliott@imperial.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7511-5684

Funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: In UK Biobank, ethical approval for data collection was received from the North-West Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee (REC reference: 11/NW/0382) and the research was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki of the World Medical Association. No additional ethical approval was required for the analyses of the data.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Edward D Janus, University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication history

  1. Received: December 1, 2020
  2. Accepted: June 1, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 1, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: June 10, 2021 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2021, Evangelou et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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