Not too long ago I discussed life insurance exam labs results. I mentioned that the tests were not always tests that would lead to a diagnosis of a specific problem, but were tests that often exposed the tip of the iceberg, where a more serious problem might lie hidden beneath.
One such case would be with the liver function test call a GGT, Gamma Glutamyl Transferase. This isn’t a test that you would normally find on your annual exam with your doctor. The truth is that doctors don’t run it and don’t see the value in it. They say it is too “nonspecific” to be of value.
The GGT simply put, measures irritation of the liver. Irritation of the liver can be caused by over the counter medication such as Ibuprofen. Elevation can be caused by drinking and of course, the irritation can potentially be just the beginning stages of something more serious such as cancer.
One of the most common culprits for an elevated GGT is heavy drinking. Not so heavy that extensive liver damage has been caused, but heavy enough that your liver is pretty irritated……at you. For this reason, when there is an elevated GGT on an insurance exam, there is a standing order to run a back up test called a CDT, Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin. The CDT is known in the industry as an alcohol marker, a very reliable test for detecting heavy drinking. For those with a more clinical or inquisitive mind, here is an article that discusses liver functions and alcohol abuse in more detail.
Life insurance underwriters don’t mince words when it comes to a positive CDT. A positive CDT means that you are knocking back 4-5 drinks or more per day on an ongoing basis. It wasn’t caused by that party over the weekend. Binge drinking won’t cause a positive CDT. So the word from the underwriter that won’t be minced, or misunderstood, will be decline.
There was a company in the not too distant past that felt so strongly about the GGT being alcohol related, that if you had a DUI or alcohol treatment anywhere in your past, even 30 years in your past, even if your CDT was negative, and your GGT was elevated, it was an automatic decline.
Bottom line. Alcohol abuse has been shown in so many ways to have a negative impact on mortality, that life insurance companies simply don’t want to have anything to do with it if they can detect it up front.