4727.0.55.002 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2012-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/09/2014  First Issue
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Contents >> Biomedical Measures >> Liver function biomarkers


The liver works as the body's filter, removing toxins from the blood, processing nutrients and regulating its metabolism. A range of factors, including fatty liver disease, infections and excessive alcohol consumption can prevent the liver from performing these functions and if left untreated, can lead to liver damage.1 When the liver is inflamed or damaged, enzymes including alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT) leak from the liver cells into the bloodstream. As a result, elevated levels of ALT and GGT in the bloodstream can indicate the presence of liver disease.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) provides an objective measurement of the number of people in Australia with ALT and GGT levels that indicate reduced liver function and the presence of liver damage. While elevated levels for either test may indicate liver damage, they cannot diagnose the presence of liver disease.

Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and Gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT)

Liver disease has many health concerns and elevated ALT and GGT levels are not only associated with liver damage, but also with type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome.2,3 An elevated ALT or GGT level indicates damage to the liver, which may have been caused by heavy alcoholism, fatty liver disease (alcohol or non-alcohol related), hepatitis, or a combination of other causes.4,5

Comparability with other surveys

The NATSIHMS is the first ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survey to collect biomedical information. Given it was also the first national level survey (ABS or otherwise) to collect such data for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, no comparisons with previous surveys for this population are possible.

However, biomedical data was also collected for all Australians in the 2011-12 National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) and information about comparisons between the NHMS results and those of non-ABS surveys is available from the Comparisons with other Australian surveys section of the Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 publication.

More information regarding the biomedical tests and cut off points can be found in the relevant subsections of this Users' Guide.


1 Angulo P and KD Lindor 2002, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, <http://www.gastrohep.com/conreports/bangkok/jghs2.pdf>, Last accessed 01/08/2013
2 Goessling W, Massaro JM, Vasan R.S, D’Agostino RB, Ellison RC and CS Fox 2008. Aminotransferase Levels and 20-year Risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease, Gastroenterology. 135:6 pp. 1935-1944.
3 Koskinen J, Magnussen CG, Kähönen M, Loo B, Marniemi J, Jula A, Saarikoski LA, Huupponen R, Viikari SA, Raitakari OT and M Juonala 2012, Association of liver enzymes with metabolic syndrome and carotid atherosclerosis in young adults. The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, Annals of Medicine. 44:2 pp. 187-195.
4 Everhart J and E Wright 2012. Association of γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) activity with treatment and clinical outcomes in chronic hepatitis C (HCV). Hepatology: Official Journal of the American Association for the Association for the study of Liver Diseases.
5 Torkadi P, Apte IC and AK Bhute 2013, Biochemical Evaluation of Patients of Alcoholic Liver Disease and Non-alcoholic Liver Disease. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry.

This section contains the following subsection :
        Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
        Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)

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