Jerzy Kaczynski of Sahlgrenska University Hospital and colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Academy studied 855 men age 50 and tracked them for as long as 40 years.
None of the men had liver problems at the beginning of the study but during the decades of follow-up almost 2 percent were diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. All of the men with the diagnosis were overweight at the beginning of the study, with an average body mass index of 28 -- a BMI of above 25 is classified as overweight.
The study, published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, found BMI and raised levels of triglycerides -- a type of blood fat -- constituted risk factors for the development of cirrhosis of the liver, but the same link could not be statistically proven for alcohol.
"A liver that has been ill and weakened as a result of overweight can take less of a load," Kaczynski says in a statement. "We can therefore speculate that cirrhosis of the liver will develop more quickly in people who drink too much alcohol if they are overweight. Our study does not offer any evidence for this, but this kind of speculation is well founded."