Aims of the study: In the last 40 years, African Americans have experienced higher age-adjusted liver cirrhosis mortality rates than whites. Alcohol use has been hypothesized to be the likely determinant of this disparity in liver disease mortality. This study was aimed at evaluating racial variations in common biomarkers of liver injury, such as gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), aspartate amino transferase (AST) and alanine amino transferase (ALT), by categories of drinking status and levels of current alcohol use.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of a general population sample of 3304 residents of Erie and Niagara counties in New York State, 35-80 years of age and free from known hepatic disease, stratified by racial group (African-American and white).
Results: Concentrations of GGT were higher for African-Americans than for whites in all categories of drinking status (lifetime abstainers, former and current drinkers) after adjustment for potential confounders (age, sex, education, smoking, and body mass index). However, differences in enzyme mean values between the two racial groups were consistently larger among current drinkers than for either lifetime abstainers or former drinkers. In analyses based on tertiles of alcohol consumption in the last 30 days, differences in GGT mean values between the two races tended to amplify with increasing amounts of consumption.
Conclusions: These findings seem to support the hypothesis of greater sensitivity to alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity among African-Americans than for whites.