November 2017

 

DO YOU HAVE A FATTY LIVER?

 

 

Think fatty liver is an alcoholic’s problem? Think again.

 

Fatty liver disease has been all over the news lately.  If you’re not exactly sure what fatty liver disease is, know that it’s usually associated with alcoholism.    The condition that is now getting attention is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  As the name suggests, NAFLD is when fat accumulates in the liver for reasons other than alcohol abuse.  And it’s a growing condition: an estimated one-third of American adults have it.  Most people show no symptoms at all, which is why it’s called a “silent” disease.  And, as many as 1 in 5 cases progress to a more aggressive form of liver inflammation, called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can lead to cirrhosis and cancer.  Experts aren’t sure of the cause, but hold off on hitting the panic button: most people with NAFLD don’t develop further complications.  And there are clear risk factors for NAFLD: obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and excess belly fat.   The go-to screening is to check liver enzymes with a blood test.  If they’re abnormal, noninvasive ultrasound or MRI scans can reveal if there is further damage.

 

Another positive: diet and exercise are proving to be effective solutions.  Losing 5-10% of your total body weight can reduce liver inflammation and fat buildup in the organ.  But keep shedding gradually: a pound a week or so.  Dropping too much weight too fast may worsen the disease.  As far as what to eat, think Mediterranean: diets higher in olive oil and omega 3’s, lower in saturated fats, and include plenty of vegetables.  When in doubt, steer away from the hallmarks of a Western diet: processed meats, and refined/concentrated carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup.  Some other touted recommendations: turmeric, milk thistle, coffee, garlic, green tea, ginger, dark chocolate: all may reduce inflammation but the evidence is weak that any improve NAFLD.

 

Bottom Line: Experts are concerned about NAFLD because most cases go undiagnosed, and if NAFLD progresses, the complications can be serious.  If you’re at risk, talk to your doctor so you can take steps to protect your liver if necessary.

Micaela Young, MS, CPT

 

**For more information, watch for the November newsletter, published around mid-month!