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Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Obesity

What is Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?

Non alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in the world, affecting 10-15 percent of the population especially in countries with higher rates of obesity, high-GI diets and a high intake of dietary fat. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease has three basic stages. (1) Steatosis, during which fat accumulates in the liver. This stage is relatively harmless. (2) Non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), during which fat-accumulation continues but is accompanied by liver inflammation (hepatitis), destruction of liver cells (necrosis), and scarring of the liver (fibrosis). (3) Cirrhosis, during which irreversible damage of the liver occurs. This may be life-threatening.

Link Between Obesity and NAFLD

The main cause of non alcoholic fatty liver disease is insulin resistance, a metabolic disorder in which cells become insensitive to the effect of insulin. One of the most common risk factors for insulin resistance is obesity, especially central abdominal obesity. Studies indicate a correlation between body mass index (BMI) and the degree of liver damage. The higher the BMI the worse the liver disease. Note: patients with non alcoholic fatty liver disease do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

Obesity Leads to Increased Risk of NAFLD

The prevalence of non alcoholic fatty liver disease among patients suffering from obesity and/or type 2 diabetes, is estimated as follows: 90 percent have first-stage steatosis, 20 percent have non alcoholic steatohepatitis, and 10 percent have cirrhosis. The risk for non alcoholic fatty liver disease increases with increased obesity. Therefore patients with morbid or malignant obesity are at even higher risk from this disease.

Weight Loss Leads to Reduced Incidence of NAFLD

Although non alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by a combination of metabolic disorders, like diabetes, insulin resistance syndrome and abdominal obesity, weight loss remains one of the most effective treatments. Studies of patients who have gastric bypass to reduce morbid obesity, show that one of the benefits of substantial weight loss is a significant improvement of non alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, a mere 10 percent loss of weight can produce a noticeable improvement in this condition, especially when accompanied by a switch to a healthy GI Diet.

Obesity and Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Severe clinical obesity is also considered to be an independent risk factor for alcohol related liver diseases including cirrhosis and acute hepatitis.

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