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Association of water softness and heavy alcohol consumption with higher hospital admission rates for alcoholic liver disease

Annual hospital admission rates for alcoholic liver disease per 100,000 population in the 28 Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) existing in England over the period 2003–2006 were compared with regional measures of water hardness, alcohol consumption and social deprivation. As corroborative evidence, the same relations were examined for hospital admission rates for osteoporosis, a disorder with an already established link with calcium deficiency in drinking water (as well as with heavy drinking).

Hospital admissions rates for alcoholic liver disease were higher in predominant-soft-water SHAs than with hard water SHAs. These areas, with one exception, were also associated with high alcohol consumption, but not with greater social deprivation. Hospital admission rates for osteoporosis were found to vary in a way similar to that for alcoholic liver disease, with significant correlations with soft water and alcohol consumption.

The authors conclude that given experimental evidence that magnesium deficiency can aggravate liver damage from alcohol, soft water with its low magnesium concentration may be a factor additional to alcohol consumption in the development of liver damage. The parallel findings with osteoporosis admissions, explainable by low calcium and magnesium levels present in soft water, along with the known effect of heavy drinking on bone metabolism, provide corollary support for the hypothesis linking soft water with the pathogenesis of these two diseases.

Source: Association of Water Softness and Heavy Alcohol Consumption with Higher Hospital Admission Rates for Alcoholic Liver Disease. Mark Howarth, Antonio Riva, Peter Marks and Roger Williams. Alcohol 2012 Nov;47(6) 688-96.

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