Background: Evidence suggests that the predictive value of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels for prognosis, measured by indices such as all-cause mortality and medical costs, may be modified by body mass index (BMI). However, the relationship between serum ALT and BMI has not been satisfactorily elucidated. Methods: Four thousand, five hundred and twenty-four community dwelling Japanese National Health Insurance beneficiaries, 40-69 years old, were classified into five categories according to their serum ALT levels (IU/L) (ALT<20, 20≤ALT<30, 30≤ALT<40, 40≤ALT<50 and 50≤ALT) and followed for 10 years. Hazard ratios for all-cause mortality, with reference to the lowest serum ALT category, and medical costs per person were evaluated for each serum ALT category after analyzing interactions between serum ALT levels and BMI for all-cause mortality and for medical costs. Results: A significant interaction between serum ALT levels and BMI was observed. In participants below the median BMI, positive, graded relationships were identified between serum ALT levels and all-cause mortality as well as between serum ALT levels and personal medical costs. The multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio in the "50≤ALT" category showed an approximately 8-fold increase. However, in the participants at or above the median BMI, no significant relationships between serum ALT levels and all-cause mortality or personal medical costs were identified. Conclusions: In these Japanese participants, the predictive value of serum ALT levels for prognosis was more evident if BMI was taken into account. A combination of high serum ALT levels and below median BMI was associated with excess mortality and medical cost.
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