Doctors are worried about an common condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver diseaseor NAFLD increasingly, in which extra fat builds up in the liver. It may result in serious consequences like cirrhosis and liver cancer – just like liver problems caused by drinking too much alcohol.
He has seen preliminary results from a Mayo Clinic study that recommend NAFLD can increase susceptibility to other kinds of cancer as well. Hugo Rosen, a liver disease expert at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has seen an increase in the proportion of patients with fatty liver disease. In NASH, the liver becomes damaged and inflamed, which can cause scarring and higher risk of liver or cancer failure. Concerning results could indicate the need for referral to a liver expert and a liver biopsy.
Vitamin E and some patients have been helped by the diabetes drug pioglitazone, but results are inconsistent, he said. The FDA has approved no drugs for the disease yet. Rosen said slimming down is the primary strategy to combat the nagging problem, because it helps reduce fat and inflammation in the liver. The keto dietwhich emphasizes eating lots of fats and restricting carbohydrates, can result in NAFLDaccording to research done in mouse models.
Fructose and other sugars are a major concern as well, in sodas especially, candy, sugary cereals, sweetened juices and fast food. Those types of refined foods can increase cholesterol and cause inflammation in the liver.
Instead, he suggests eating a well-balanced diet that features high-fiber foods, vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meats, nuts, eggs, seeds and unrefined oils. Fasting is another approach that can have dramatic weight-loss effects but is hard to maintain. When combined with obesity, sarcopenia can raise the risk of liver inflammation further.
Another concern is alcohol. Although by definition, NAFLD is unrelated to alcohol use, people with poor liver health should be careful about how exactly much they drink. Rosen said even moderate alcohol consumption 10 to 20 grams for women and 10 to 30 grams for men per day can cause issues, citing a recent study that followed 60, Koreans with NAFLD.
A typical drink has 10 to 14 grams of alcohol. Doctors who see patients who are overweight or obese should consider recommending a screening ultrasound or other methods to determine fat levels in the liver.