Alcohol intake and cardiovascular function of black South Africans : a 5-year prospective study
Zatu, Mandlenkosi Caswell
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Motivation - Alcohol consumption is one of the major risk factors of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Excessive alcohol drinking is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide and the prevalence of alcohol abuse continues to increase especially in low-income areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The alarming rate of urbanisation seems to be the driving force for excessive alcohol intake in the developing world. In addition to its influence on CVD, heavy drinking also results in a number of non-cardiovascular consequences that include injury, risky sexual behaviour, violent crime and family dysfunction among black South Africans, contributing to high mortality. Moreover, the highest number of individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in South Africa is partly attributable to high intake of alcohol. HIV remains a major concern in South Africa with significant funding diverted to address the pandemic. The continued increases in mortality from preventable outcomes such as stroke, myocardial infarction and renal failure are largely due to urbanisation, poverty and dysfunctional health systems working with limited budgets. These are some of the factors requiring in-depth study of the scientific aspects of alcohol intake in South Africa. Although there is enough evidence that links excessive drinking with hypertension and CVD, the markers of alcohol intake – self reporting of alcohol, gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) and carbohydrate deficient transferrin – are still not specific enough to isolate other confounding factors in the association of alcohol intake with CVD. The markers of alcohol that independently predict CVD and mortality need to be explored. Finally, the severe lack of longitudinal investigations on alcohol-related hypertension development and total mortality in black South Africans has compromised the early identification of risk factors associated with these outcomes. This study will therefore attempt to address the limited availability of longitudinal studies and stimulate interest for continued investigation. Aim - The aim of this study was to investigate whether alcohol intake of black South Africans is related to specific measures of cardiovascular function (change in blood pressure (BP), hypertension development) and mortality over a period of 5 years. Methodology - This study was based on the international Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study which includes 26 countries, investigating the cause and development of cardiovascular risk factors in low, middle and high income countries. This South African leg of the PURE study started in 2005 in which the baseline data was collected from 2021 black South Africans from rural and urban areas in Ikageng, Ganyesa and Tlakgameng in the North West Province. Eleven participants presented with missing data, leaving 2010 participants with complete datasets at baseline. However, data from these 11 participants was useful, especially for Chapter 4. All participants gave informed consent and the Ethics committee of the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) approved the study. The follow-up data collection was done in 2010. General health questionnaires, anthropometric measurements, lipid profiles and cardiovascular measurements were taken both at baseline and follow-up using appropriate methods. We also collected blood samples and performed biochemical analyses for lipid markers, liver enzymes, inflammatory markers and percentage carbohydrate deficient transferrin (%CDT). Finally, we obtained data on cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality through verbal autopsy and death certificates. We made use of analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Chi-square tests to compare means and proportions, respectively. We used dependent t-tests and the McNemar test to compare baseline and follow-up variables. Furthermore, we employed single and partial linear regression analyses to correlate alcohol markers with each other and with the cardiovascular measures. Multiple regression analyses were used to correlate dependent variables in the study with various independent variables as required. Finally, we employed multivariable-adjusted Cox regression analyses to assess the association of the selected alcohol markers with mortality while adjusting for several independent variables. Results and Conclusions of each manuscript - With the first research article (Chapter 4), we aimed to compare self-reported alcohol intake estimates with GGT and %CDT, considering their relationship with percentage change in brachial blood pressure (BP) and central systolic blood pressure (cSBP) over 5 years. The results indicated that only self-reported alcohol intake independently predicted % change in brachial BP and cSBP. This was not found for the biochemical markers GGT and %CDT. Self-reported alcohol intake seems to be an important measure to implement by health systems in low income areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where honest reporting is expected. - Given the likely presence of high GGT levels in both alcohol consumption and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the second manuscript (Chapter 5) aimed to compare the cardiovascular and metabolic characteristics of excessive alcohol users and individuals with suspected NAFLD (confirmed with self-report, GGT and %CDT). We found that different sex and cardiometabolic profiles characterised excessive alcohol users and individuals suspected with NAFLD. Lean body mass and male sex were the dominant characteristics in excessive alcohol use while the NAFLD group had a dysmetabolic profile with obese women making up the higher proportion of this group. In excessive alcohol users systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure were independently associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Diastolic blood pressure showed a significant correlation with waist circumference. These disparate profiles may guide healthcare practitioners in primary healthcare clinics to identify individuals with elevated GGT levels who may suffer from NAFLD or alcohol overuse. These results emphasise the importance of modifiable risk factors as the main contributors to CVD and that lifestyle change should be the main focus in developing countries such as South Africa. - The third manuscript (Chapter 6) aimed to determine the measure of alcohol intake (selfreported alcohol intake, GGT and %CDT) that related best with hypertension development, cardiovascular and all-cause mortality over 5 years in the same population of black South Africans. We found that GGT was the only independent predictor of hypertension development, cardiovascular as well as all-cause mortality. Moreover, self-reporting of alcohol intake predicted incident hypertension, confirming our findings from Chapter 4. The third marker, %CDT, a highly specific marker of alcohol intake, was not related with any outcome variable, perhaps due to its low sensitivity. Although self-reported alcohol intake is useful in low-resource primary healthcare settings, measurement of GGT is encouraged due to its predictive value for hypertension and mortality. GGT represents alcohol intake, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and obesity - all known to have severe cardiovascular consequences. Discussion and Conclusions Excessive alcohol intake remains a major concern in the development of hypertension, CVD and premature death in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite their weaknesses such as bias and nonspecificity, self-reporting of alcohol consumption and GGT emerged as reliable alcohol markers that independently predicted 5-year change in BP, hypertension development and total mortality in this population. Serum %CDT did not show any association with the mentioned cardiovascular markers. Finally, we were also able to show that black South Africans with suspected NAFLD (i.e. with high GGT levels who do not consume alcohol) are typically obese women, whereas lean men were more likely to have high alcohol consumption. Further prospective investigations are encouraged regarding (a) these mentioned associations, as well as (b) other self-reporting estimates such as quantity and frequency of drinking and (c) the use of %CDT as a highly specific marker of alcohol intake. The simultaneous presence of HIV infection in alcohol abuse in this population also warrants further investigation.
- Health Sciences