Fatty liver disease is becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world, affecting about 25% of people globally
It is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other disorders characterised by insulin resistance.
What’s more, if fatty liver isn’t addressed, it may progress to more serious liver disease and other health problems.
What is Fatty Liver?
Fatty liver occurs when too much fat builds up in liver cells. Although it is normal to have a tiny amount of fat in these cells, the liver is considered fatty if more than 5-10% of it is fat.
While drinking too much alcohol can lead to fatty liver, in many cases it does not play a role.
A number of fatty liver conditions fall under the broad category of non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD), which is the most common liver disease in adults and children in Western countries. Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) is the initial, reversible stage of liver disease. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed. Over time, NAFL may lead to a more serious liver condition known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.
NASH involves greater fat accumulation and inflammation that damages the liver cells. This can lead to fibrosis, or scar tissue, as liver cells are repeatedly injured and die off.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict whether fatty liver will progress to NASH, which greatly increases the risk of cirrhosis (severe scarring that impairs liver function) and liver cancer. NAFLD is also linked to an increased risk of other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease
Fatty liver occurs when too much fat builds up in the liver. Fatty liver is reversible at an early stage, but it sometimes progresses to advanced liver disease.
What Causes Fatty Liver?
There are several factors that may cause or contribute to developing fatty liver:
Obesity: Obesity involves low-grade inflammation that may promote liver fat storage. It’s estimated that 28-60% of obese adults have NAFLD, and it’s increasing in children due to the childhood obesity epidemic
Excess belly fat: Normal-weight people may develop fatty liver if they are “viscerally obese,” meaning they carry too much fat around the waist
Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance and high insulin levels have been shown to increase liver fat storage in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
High intake of refined carbs: Frequent intake of refined carbs promotes liver fat storage, especially when high amounts are consumed by overweight or insulin-resistant individuals
Sugary beverage consumption: Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks are high in fructose, which has been shown to drive liver fat accumulation in children and adults
Impaired gut health: Recent research suggests that having an imbalance in gut bacteria, problems with gut barrier function (“leaky gut”) or other gut health issues may contribute to NAFLD development
Causes of NAFLD include obesity, insulin resistance, excessive intake of refined carbs and sugar, as well as impaired gut health.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver
Fatty liver may cause subtle symptoms and is often detected by blood tests. NASH usually involves more pronounced symptoms, such as abdominal pain and feeling unwell.
Dietary Strategies for Getting Rid of Fatty Liver
There are several things you can do to get rid of fatty liver, including losing weight and cutting back on carbs.
Lose Weight and Avoid Overeating If Overweight or Obese
Weight loss is one of the best ways to reverse fatty liver if you are overweight or obese.
In fact, weight loss has been shown to promote loss of liver fat in adults with NAFLD, regardless of whether the weight loss was achieved by making dietary changes alone or in combination with weight loss surgery or exercise
Cut Back on Carbs, Especially Refined Carbs
It may seem as though the most logical way to address fatty liver would be to cut back on dietary fat.
However, researchers report only about 16% of liver fat in people with NAFLD comes from dietary fat. Rather, most liver fat comes from fatty acids in their blood, and about 26% of liver fat is formed in a process called de novo lipogenesis (DNL) During DNL, excess carbs are converted into fat. The rate at which DNL occurs increases with high intakes of fructose-rich foods and beverages
Studies have shown that consuming diets low in refined carbs may help reverse NAFLD. These include low-carb, Mediterranean and low-glycemic index diets
Exercise That Can Help Reduce Liver Fat
Physical activity can be an effective way to decrease liver fat.
Studies have shown that engaging in exercise or resistance training times a week can significantly reduce the amount of fat stored in liver cells, regardless of whether weight loss occurs
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has also been shown to be beneficial for decreasing liver fat.
However, even lower-intensity exercise can be effective at targeting liver fat.
Since working out regularly is important for reducing liver fat, choosing something you like doing and can stick with is your best strategy.
The Good News About Fatty Liver
Fatty liver can lead to a number of health problems. Fortunately, it can be reversed if addressed at an early stage.
Been diagnosed with fatty liver? Having problems overcoming it?
Learn how you can significantly reduce the bio markers for fatty liver liver disease through nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. Dr. Sandi & the team at Como Diagnostic have put together a number of weight loss and weight stabilisation programs which are known to assist in the prevention of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome which are major risk factors for NAFLD as well as guidance on appropriate and sensible fitness routines that you can easily accomodate into your busy schedule.
Call us on 03 926 4300 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog is general in nature only and should not be relied upon as medical advice. For further information please contact our clinic or your own medical practitioner.