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Experts call for more research to reduce alcohol consumption for better liver health

A group of over 20 experts from more than 20 institutions, including UT Southwestern Medical Centre, recently published an editorial in Nature Reviews and proposed that more clinical studies be done to see if people with alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) might benefit from drinking less.

Doctor Mack Mitchell of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School stated, "Reducing or quitting heavy drinking after diagnosis can extend and improve the lives of patients with ALD."

"However, there hasn't been a lot of research on the subject," he stated, adding that well-designed clinical studies that look at alcohol use and ALD should lead to big changes in the way doctors do their jobs. 

The experts argue that future clinical studies on alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) should incorporate the 28 suggestions made by the task group. Putting together multidisciplinary teams with experts in liver disease and addiction is very important, as is working to get rid of the social shame that surrounds drinking. 

The editorial emphasises that the number of alcohol-related deaths has increased by 20 years since the COVID-19 outbreak. Alcohol use was the cause of almost half of all deaths in the US in 2022 from cirrhosis and almost half of all deaths from liver disease. Even though heavy drinkers tend to live longer with ALD, not many scientific studies have looked at how cutting back on alcohol changes the course of the disease.

The experts' ideas cover a wide range of topics, such as how to classify diseases, how to choose trial participants, different types of treatments, and safety concerns. They also discuss the stigmatization of drinking-related diseases, which could potentially limit access to treatment options such as liver transplantation. To fight these false beliefs, the task force suggested that patient advocates be part of the planning stages of the trial. 

“The field of alcohol-associated liver disease lacks well-designed clinical trials integrating alcohol use disorder treatment, a critical component in optimising patient outcomes,” said Dr. Thomas Cotter, who also contributed to the consensus statement. These ideas will provide a clear direction for the field to take next.

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD), which affects people all over the world, is becoming a bigger problem that costs a lot of money. Healthcare costs are rising, productivity is declining, and healthcare systems are already full. We need beneficial answers. By making it harder to drink, we might improve health outcomes and make the world's economies stronger. 

Dr. Mitchell, who is a world leader in research on ALD and AUD, is still working for better studies and treatments after all this time. The Seixas Award for Service from the Research Society on Alcoholism is one of the many important awards he has received for his work in the field. 

There needs to be more scientific research and better treatment options for ALD in order to control it and make patients', the authors said.

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