8 myths about fatty liver debunked by an expert
Liver health: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little or no alcohol. The main cause is too much fat stored in the liver cells.
Liver health: Obesity is one of the risk factors for fatty liver disease
- Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of fatty liver disease
- Swelling and abdominal pain may be signs of fatty liver disease
- Obesity increases the risk of fatty liver disease
Fatty liver disease is an excessive buildup of fat in the liver. This excess fat can lead to inflammation of the liver, a condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. In many cases, there are no visible symptoms of fatty liver disease. While advanced cases can lead to symptoms like abdominal swelling, enlarged blood vessels, yellowing of the skin, fatigue and discomfort in the upper right part of the abdomen. In this article, here are some fatty liver myths that you shouldn’t believe.
Here are the common myths about fatty liver disease:
1. Only alcoholics develop fatty liver disease
Anyone can develop fatty liver disease, however, it is more common in alcoholics. Besides alcohol, the causes of fatty liver disease are overweight, obesity, poor diet, medications, high cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid disorders and sometimes genetics.
2. Only obese people develop fatty liver disease.
As mentioned, obesity is one of the risk factors. Even skinny people can develop fatty liver disease, a condition called “skinny NASH”.
Also Read: Fatty Liver Disease: Know The Causes Of Fatty Liver Disease Other Than Obesity
3. Fatty liver disease is a disease of the west, uncommon in India
The incidence of fatty liver disease is increasing worldwide and in India as well. About 30% of Indians have fatty liver disease.
4. Wine and beer are safer than whiskey.
It is the amount of alcohol that harms the liver. A certain type of alcohol doesn’t matter. It’s like mixing water to poison and drink it! Alcohol should not be consumed in people with fatty liver disease.
Also read: Diagnosed with fatty liver disease? All about this condition
5. Foie gras is not a big problem
Up to 30% of patients with fatty liver disease may have progressive liver disease and may end up with an irreversible disease called cirrhosis of the liver. In addition, fatty liver disease is associated with other metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, cancer, obesity and others.
6. Fatty liver is irreversible
Once there is fatty liver, some of them may progress to the next stages called NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) and later to cirrhosis. Only cirrhosis is irreversible. Fatty liver disease / NASH is reversible with lifestyle and medication changes. However, liver transplantation may be the only curative option for cirrhosis of the liver.
Also read: Liver disease: early signs and symptoms you should be aware of
7. There is no treatment for fatty liver disease.
Lifestyle modification is the most important way to manage fatty liver disease. Weight reduction, exercise, healthy eating, blood sugar and cholesterol control play the most important role. There are also various drugs.
8. No need to meet with a liver specialist.
Most patients do well with the changes in their lifestyle. However, some of them require special tests like liver function tests, a fibroscan, and rarely a liver biopsy. The need for medication may depend on the above results. Some may require frequent monitoring of tests. Patients with cirrhosis of the liver may also end up with a liver transplant. Therefore, it is prudent to meet with a gastroenterologist or a hepatologist once.
(Dr Adarsh CK, Chief Consultant, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital)
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