Liver enzymes in alcohol consumers with or without binge drinking

Alcohol. 2019 Aug;78:13-19. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2019.03.001. Epub 2019 Mar 16.


Background: While alcohol use is linked with a wide variety of health problems, the question of whether differences in drinking patterns could yield different outcomes has remained unclear.

Patients and methods: We measured liver enzymes (ALT, GGT) from alcohol consumers with or without binge drinking from a population-based sample in Finland, where binge-type drinking is common. Data on alcohol use, diet, body weight, lifestyle (smoking, coffee consumption, physical activity), and health status were collected from 19225 subjects (9492 men, 9733 women), aged 25-74 years. The participants were subsequently classified to subgroups, both according to the frequencies of binge drinking and the amounts of regular alcohol intake (low-, medium-, and high-risk drinking).

Results: The quantity of regular alcohol use was roughly linearly related with GGT and ALT activities. ANOVA analyses of the trends according to the frequency of binge drinking showed a significant GGT increase in both men (p < 0.0005) and women (p < 0.0005), and a significant increase of ALT in men (p < 0.0005). In those with low-risk overall consumption, markedly higher GGT (p < 0.0005) and ALT (p < 0.0005) occurred in those with binge drinking more than once a month, compared with those with no such occasions. Binge drinking occurring ≤1/month also resulted in higher GGT (p < 0.0005) and ALT (p < 0.05) activities.

Conclusions: These results emphasize possible adverse consequences of binge drinking on hepatic function even in those with low-risk overall consumption. The pattern of drinking should be more systematically implicated in clinical recommendations for drinking reduction.

Keywords: ALT; Drinking pattern; Ethanol; GGT; Harm reduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alanine Transaminase / metabolism*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Binge Drinking*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Coffee
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / metabolism*


  • Coffee
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Alanine Transaminase