Tags: fatty liver | disease | nonalcoholic steatohepatitis | epidemic

Fatty Liver Disease: America's Silent Epidemic

By    |   Sunday, 04 January 2015 05:31 PM


A major health crisis is emerging in our nation that is flying under the radar of even health-conscious Americans.
 
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease used to be rare in the U.S. But today it afflicts fully 20 percent of adults and its incidence is rapidly accelerating, causing an approaching tidal wave of disability, illness, and death.
 
“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is becoming the next big epidemic to hit America,” says Anurag Maheshwari, M.D., a liver disease specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. “Within the next few decades, fatty liver disease will become the largest cause of long-term disability in the U.S.”
 
Not long ago, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was so rare that many doctors had never seen a case of it. But over the last 20 years, the incidence has more than doubled, and health authorities are just now starting to realize the full scope of the crisis.
 
Nonalcholic fatty liver disease is generally divided into two forms. One is less serious and usually doesn’t cause symptoms early in the course of the disease. It is often diagnosed in a blood test given during a routine checkup. This mild form puts patients at high risk for heart disease and diabetes.
 
The more serious version of fatty liver disease is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. It is progressive and can result in cirrhosis, which can shut down the liver and eventually lead to death. In advanced cases, a liver transplant is a patient’s only hope.
 
It is estimated that 2-3 percent of Americans have NASH. There is already a shortage of transplant livers in the U.S., but as the fatty liver crisis continues, the situation is expected to get worse.
 
Most people associate liver disease and cirrhosis with alcoholism. However, the vast majority of people with NASH are not heavy drinkers. The chief cause is obesity, Dr. Maheshwari tells Newsmax Health.
 
Particularly suspect is the overconsumption of sugar, particularly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in processed food.
 
High fructose corn syrup is a type of corn syrup to which enzymes have been added to change the glucose into fructose, a form of sugar that adds sweetness, but is also more easily metabolized by the body. It is quickly and easily converted by the body into fat.
 
“If you think about an apple and banana, they have sugar, but the body has to do a lot of work to break down that sugar and metabolize it,” said Bipan Chand, M.D., director of the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. “High fructose corn syrup is very dense and easy for the body to convert into fat.”
 
The key to preventing NASH lies is losing weight. “Studies show that losing as few as 10 pounds helps people with fatty liver disease. But the overall goal should be to reduce 10 percent of body weight. This will be most beneficial in the long run,” says Dr. Maheshwari.
 
Here are other steps that can reduce the risk of fatty liver disease:
                         
·         Replace processed and fried foods with whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish or meat that is not fried. Some studies show that a Mediterranean diet is protective.
·         Exercise daily.
·         Drink coffee. Studies show that people who drink three or more cups of coffee daily are less likely to develop NASH.
·         Take 800 IU of vitamin E daily. Vitamin E may have a protective effect over time, according to studies.
·         Consider drinking a small glass of wine daily. Although it seems counterintuitive to drink to improve liver health, one study showed that a modest amount of alcohol cuts the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by half.
 
The full version of this article appeared in Health Radar newsletter. To read more, click here.
 

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A major health crisis is emerging in our nation that is flying under the radar of even health-conscious Americans. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease used to be rare in the U.S. But today it afflicts fully 20 percent of adults and its incidence is rapidly accelerating,...
fatty liver, disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, epidemic
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2015-31-04
Sunday, 04 January 2015 05:31 PM
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