Toronto, ON, October 11, 2018 – A new study from researchers at McGill University and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) reveals that people in the heart of Canada’s wealthiest cities are most likely to be liver-healthy, as are those living in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

In fact, they are the only cities in the country with higher rates of liver enzymes in people aged 40 and over than those aged 30 and under.

The findings suggest that while Canadians living in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary may have elevated liver levels due to the lifestyle, they may also have elevated levels of liver disease due to a combination of factors, said Dr. Marie-Josée Pépin, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UQAM.

Pépins study, “Liver-Disease: A Comparison of Liver Disease Rates Among Canadians Living in Urban, Rural, and Suburban Areas,” was published online in the October 18 edition of the journal PLOS One.

The researchers also examined liver enzyme levels in more than 8,000 individuals from five countries.

They found that liver enzymes were highest in urban, rural, and suburban areas, and were highest among those aged 20 to 24.

While there were also some cities with higher levels of low-density areas, the study suggests that most of these urban areas had higher levels.

“The results support our understanding that living in urban areas can contribute to elevated liver function, especially in older adults, which is a key component of the prevention of liver damage,” said Dr Mónica Carrera, an assistant research professor in McGill’s department of public health and epidemiology.

“Livers can heal and are sensitive to toxins, and it may be that we can also protect against the consequences of low liver function by avoiding unhealthy food choices.”

A liver disease is an abnormal breakdown of the liver tissue that occurs when the body breaks down harmful substances in the body.

According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are more than 4 million Canadians with liver disease and nearly 700,000 people in need of liver transplants.

The research also found that a greater proportion of people in Toronto and Montreal were liver-disease-free compared to other cities.

“This finding shows that we are getting better at keeping people in control of their own liver function and that we need to do more to educate the public about liver disease,” said Péchin.

“A person with liver damage may not feel well for a while, but their liver may recover and continue functioning as normal.

But if they continue to live in a high-risk area, the risks increase, and this can lead to liver disease.”

Pélinas study also found differences in the rates of hepatic damage and liver disease among different ethnic groups, with those in the highest income groups being the most likely liver-endemic.

“In Canada, a disproportionate number of young people and people with disabilities live in high-income areas and this has a direct impact on liver function,” said Carrera.

“We also found the highest rates of hepatitis B infection in people from the highest socioeconomic status groups, and these findings support our idea that people who live in more economically and culturally diverse communities may be at greater risk for liver disease because of their socio-economic status.”

In addition to Péinas work, Carrera and Péchin also collaborated with colleagues from the University of Ottawa, the Université de Montréala, and the Centre de recherche des sciences et de littérature de la belgium.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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