The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise with the incidence of NAFLD almost doubling in the past two decade. In the United States at least 30% of adults and 10% of children older than 2 have NAFLD.. Many patients are coming into my office with this disease that is preventable with weight loss and dietary interventions. Many are also wondering how do they have liver disease if they do not drink?
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by the accumulation of triglycerides in the hepatocytes of patients who don’t abuse alcohol. It ranges in severity from simple steatosis (excessive fat accumulation) to steatohepatitis (liver cell injury and inflammation). Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a subtype of NAFLD in which steatosis coexists with steatohepatitis. NASH can progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
NAFLD is more common in type 2 diabetic as well as obese individuals. Insulin resistance leads to excess free fatty acids in the blood stream and increased fat deposition in the liver. Furthermore, metabolic abnormalities spur the liver to produce and store high amounts of fatty acids. Most people with NAFLD have at least one feature of metabolic syndrome, and about one-third have all five features: elevated blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol levels, elevated triglyceride levels and increased waist circumference.(2)
When being diagnosed with NAFLD the important factor to remember is lifestyle needs to change and weight loss needs to occur. Many people diagnosed with this disease have a high refined carbohydrate, sugar or saturated fat diet. The goal is to limit or eliminate the above items as well as a safe and healthy weight loss.
When telling someone to lose weight it is easier said than done. Why has their weight been an issue? What lead to this eating pattern and weight gain? This is where a dietitian can help decode your habits and help to create healthier habits in the future.
Prevention is key! Weight loss and a healthy lifestyle will aid in preventing NAFLD from progressing. Stay tuned for a great guide to help prevent and treat NAFLD.