Heavy drinking frequently causes liver inflammation and injury. The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) involved in pro- and anti-inflammatory responses respectively could play a critical role in these processes.
A study was conducted to evaluate heavy drinking and changes in levels of omega-6 (ω-6, pro-inflammatory) and omega-3 (ω-3, anti-inflammatory) fatty acids in alcohol dependent (AD) patients who showed no clinical signs of liver injury.
Researchers assigned 114 heavy drinking alcohol-dependent patients recruited from a treatment program to one of two groups. They were recruited based on the levels of a specific liver enzyme, alanine aminotransferase--ALT. Elevated levels of ALT reflects liver injury.
Results indicated that changes in the ω-3 and ω-6 FA levels and the ω-6:ω-3 ratio reflected a unhealthy pro-inflammatory shift in patients with elevated ALT—mild liver injury. At comparable levels of alcohol consumption, women in the study showed greater liver injury than men.
The authors speculated that women may be at greater risk of developing alcoholic liver disease than men, even when consuming less alcohol.