What is fatty liver disease? Non-alcoholic fatty liver is the buildup of excess fat in the liver that is NOT caused by alcohol. If more than 10% of the liver’s weight is made up of fat, it is considered a fatty liver. The American Liver Foundation estimates that 80 million Americans have Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). While we don’t know the exact cause, NAFLD tends to develop in people who are overweight or have diabetes or pre-diabetes (insulin-resistance), high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss or poor eating habits (too much sugar!) also may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Occasionally, medications can cause of a fatty liver. Excessive alcohol use may also be the underlying or contributing cause of fatty liver. As you can see, many factors can contribute to fatty liver disease, but caloric excess (over-nutrition) leading to obesity is a large part of the problem. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects up to 30-40% of adults in the United States according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NAFLD is rapidly becoming the most common liver disease worldwide.
WHAT IS NASH?
The more severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH causes the liver to swell and become damaged. Most people with NASH are between the ages of 40 and 60 years, although it can be seen in much younger individuals who have risk factors for NASH. It is more common in women than in men. NASH often has NO SYMPTOMS and people can have non-alcoholic steatohepatitis for years before symptoms occur.
NASH is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis (a fully scarred liver) in adults in the United States. Up to 25% of adults with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis may have cirrhosis. NASH is now the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States.
How is NASH treated? Currently there are no drugs approved to treat NASH in the United States. While there’s no medicine for fatty liver disease, there is a lot you can do on your own to control it – or even make it go away. Most important is to change the things about your lifestyle condition. Gradual weight loss, even as little as 3-5% of your body weight, can help reduce the fat in your liver. A low sugar, portion controlled diet along with an increase in physical activity can help to put you on the road to reversing NAFLD and NASH.
Along with guidance for healthy lifestyle changes, the Institute for Liver Health offers cutting edge future NASH therapies through their clinical trial program. Don’t ignore your fatty liver disease any longer! If you wait for symptoms to appear, you may have advanced liver disease, and even cirrhosis.
What does the liver do?
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body, located in the right upper abdomen under the rib cage- it is about the size of a football and weighs around 3 pounds. Your liver is always busy!