Relationship between alcohol drinking and aspartate aminotransferase: alanine aminotransferase (AST:ALT) ratio, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and apolipoprotein A1 and B in the U.S. population

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Objective: The misuse of alcohol, even at levels just above two drinks per day, is a public health problem, but identifying patients with this potentially unhealthy drinking is hindered by the lack of tests. Several blood tests, such as those testing for gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) or mean corpuscular volume (MCV), are among the commonly used markers to identify very heavy drinking, but combinations of these markers have rarely been tested in lighter drinkers. We examined the relationship between alcohol drinking and the levels of these markers in a national population-based study composed primarily of lighter drinkers. Method: Data were analyzed from 8,708 adult participants in the third U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey after excluding subjects with iron overload; with hepatitis B and C; who were pregnant; and who were taking prescription drugs such as phenytoin (Dilantin), barbiturates, and hydroxyurea (Droxia and Hydrea). The relationship between the amount of alcohol drinking and GGT, aspartate aminotransferase:alanine aminotransferase ratio, MCV of erythrocytes, and apolipoprotein A1 and B were analyzed and adjusted for potential liver injury risk factors. Results: The prevalence of unhealthy alcohol drinking (defi ned as consumption of more than two standard drinks per day) was 6.7%. Heavier drinkers tended to be younger and reported an average of 4.2 drinks per day. When tested alone or in combination, the sensitivity and positive predictive values for these blood tests were too low to be clinically useful in identifying the subjects in the heavier drinking category. Conclusions: In this large, national, population-based study, the markers of heavy drinking studied here, either alone or in combination, did not appear to be useful in identifying unhealthy drinking. More work is needed to fi nd the novel marker(s) associated with risky alcohol drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-252
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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