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World J Gastroenterol. 2008 May 14;14(18):2867-71.

Persistent alanine aminotransferase elevation among the general Iranian population: prevalence and causes.

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Digestive Disease Research Center, Medical Sciences/University of Tehran, Shariati Hospital, North Kargar Avenue, Tehran 14117, Iran.



To determine the prevalence and causes of persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels among the general population in northern Iran.


A total of 2292 (1376 female, aged 18-75 year), were selected by systematic clustered random sampling from the cities and villages of Gonbad and Kalaleh in Golestan Province and invited to participate in the study. A comprehensive history regarding alcohol drinking and medication was taken. Body mass index (BMI), viral markers and ALT levels were measured. If ALT level was > or = 40 U/L, it was rechecked twice within 6 mo. Those with > or = 2 times elevation of ALT were considered as having persistently elevated ALT level. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) was diagnosed based on evidence of fatty liver upon sonography and excluding other etiology.


A total of 2049 (1351 female) patients participated in the study, 162 (7.9%) had elevated ALT level at the first measurement. Persistently elevated ALT level was detected in 64 (3.1%) participants, with 51 (79.6%) with no obvious etiology, six (9.3%) with Hepatitis B, four (6.2%) with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and three (4.6%) with alcoholic hepatitis. The prevalence of NAFLD and alcoholic hepatitis was 2.04% (42 patients) and 0.1% (three), respectively. There was correlation between NAFLD and male gender, overweight, diabetes and living in an urban area [odds ratio = 3.03 (95% CI: 1.6-5.72), 4.21 (95% CI: 1.83-9.68), 2.86 (95% CI: 1.05-7.79) and 2.04 (95% CI: 1.00-4.16) respectively].


NAFLD is the most common cause of persistently elevated serum ALT level among the general population of Iran.

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