Liver enzymes and risk of all-cause mortality in general populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Epidemiol. 2014 Feb;43(1):187-201. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt192.


Background: Gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP), commonly used as markers of liver dysfunction, have been implicated with risk of all-cause mortality. The prospective evidence on the associations in general populations has not been reliably quantified.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of published prospective cohort studies evaluating the associations of baseline levels of these enzymes with all-cause mortality in general populations. Relevant studies were identified in a literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Science up to March 2013. Authors of unpublished studies provided data on request.

Results: Nineteen unique cohort studies with aggregate data on over 9.24 million participants and 242 953 all-cause mortality outcomes were included. In a comparison of extreme thirds of baseline GGT and ALP levels, relative risks (RRs) (95% confidence intervals) for all-cause mortality were 1.60 (1.42-1.80) and 1.38 (1.17-1.63), respectively. The corresponding RRs for ALT were 0.82 (0.78-0.86) and 1.43 (1.08-1.90) in North American and Asian populations, respectively. There was no strong evidence of an association of AST with all-cause mortality: RR 1.23 (0.80-1.88). The pooled RRs per 5 U/l increment in GGT and ALP levels were 1.07 (1.04-1.10) and 1.03 (1.01-1.06), respectively.

Conclusions: Available data indicate positive independent associations of baseline levels of GGT and ALP with all-cause mortality, consistent with linear dose-response relationships. There were geographical variations in the association of ALT with all-cause mortality which require further investigation. The potential incremental prognostic values of GGT and ALP in mortality risk assessment need evaluation.

Keywords: Gamma glutamyltransferase; alkaline phosphatase; aminotransferases; meta-analysis; mortality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood*
  • Cause of Death
  • Humans
  • Mortality*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Transaminases / blood*
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / blood*


  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Transaminases
  • Alkaline Phosphatase