Persistent elevation of liver function enzymes within the reference range is associated with increased cardiovascular risk in young adults: the Bogalusa Heart Study

Metabolism. 2007 Jun;56(6):792-8. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2007.01.010.


Elevations in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), markers of liver dysfunction and nonalcoholic fatty liver, are considered as part of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases. However, information is limited regarding the persistence (tracking) in levels of these enzymes over time and their influence on cardiovascular (CV) risk in young adults. The study sample consisted of white and black subjects (N = 489, 40% male, 73% white; baseline age, 18-32 years) followed over a period of 12 years as part of the Bogalusa Heart Study, with repeat measurements of CV risk factor variables and liver enzymes. Both at baseline and follow-up, males vs females had higher ALT (P < .01 to .0001) and GGT (P < .0001); blacks vs whites had higher GGT (P < .0001). With respect to persistence in enzyme levels over time, of those individuals who had ALT and GGT at the top quintile specific for age, race, and sex at baseline, about 50% of them continued to remain so with high values after 12 years. Individuals with levels persistently in the highest quintile vs those in the lowest quintile showed higher (P < .0001) body mass index, waist circumference, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, glucose, insulin, insulin resistance index, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures; lower (P < .0001) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; and higher (P < .05 to .001) prevalence of obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome as defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III, positive parental history of type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. In addition, based on a multivariate analysis using 2 separate models for ALT and GGT, baseline levels of both enzymes were independent predictors of follow-up; insulin resistance index and baseline GGT were also predictive of follow-up systolic blood pressure. Elevations in liver enzymes ALT and GGT, within "reference" range, persist over time and relate to clinically relevant adverse CV risk profile in young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / blood*


  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Alanine Transaminase