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What Is Fatty Liver Disease?

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What Is Fatty Liver Disease?

What Is Fatty Liver Disease?

Natalia Garcia, RD/N, IFNCP, CISSN, CHWC, MB-EAT-C
Registered Dietitian

Fatty liver, a disease where the liver dangerously stores too much fat, is considered a silent epidemic that currently affects 23% of American adults, especially those with obesity, a diet high in sugar and fat, and those affected by insulin resistance.

The liver is one of the most hard-working organs of your body, playing a part in over 500 tasks that range from processing hormones to filtering out toxins.

Your liver breaks down and metabolizes fats, triglycerides, proteins, carbohydrates and hormones. This organ is also a storage space for vitamins and minerals that provide a constant supply to the body.  Crucially, the liver is a very important filter that cleans the blood coming from the digestive system, isolating toxic substances like alcohol, drugs and chemicals, or even viruses and bacteria.  

When the liver doesn't work properly it negatively impacts your entire body.

How does the liver become fatty?

Fatty liver is a condition that results from the over-accumulation of certain kinds of fats in the cells of the liver. Over time, it can develop into chronic inflammation, poor detoxification, and hormonal imbalances.

Some of the complications of fatty liver include scaring, also known as liver fibrosis, that can later develop into cirrhosis or even cancer. Although a fatty liver looks a lot like an alcoholic's liver, it is important to point out that fatty liver might not be related to alcohol consumption, and that is why it is generally called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

With NAFLD, the main risk factors are obesity, a diet high in sugars and fats, insulin resistance and diabetes.  Studies have found that fatty liver is 50% more common in people that have at least one sugar-sweetened drink per day. Other situations that increase the risk of fatty liver:

  • Obesity: Around 90% of obese individuals have some level of fatty liver
  • Metabolic syndrome and those conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and sleep apnea
  • Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Chronic inflammation existing anywhere in the body
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes: As many as 70% of people with type 2 diabetes have fatty liver
  • Methylation defects associated with high levels of homocysteine and low levels of betaine and choline
How to reverse fatty liver disease

The good news is that NAFLD is mostly reversible, and a few lifestyle choices can get your liver health back on track. For example - skip the sugary flavoring in your coffee and swap for some cinnamon which has shown to be very beneficial for liver cells. Also, avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods as much as possible. Plus, a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity can do much to support this hard-working organ. 

The liver is an essential organ that can regenerate if you give it the chance.

Learn more about fatty liver disease and how you can protect your liver and reverse this disease through diet and exercise by attending the upcoming webinar, “Fatty Liver: What it is and what to do about it” on June 15 and 17.

Register here

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