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A closer look at . . .


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol.


As the name implies, the main characteristic of NAFLD is too much fat stored in liver cells. Some individuals with NAFLD can develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.

NAFLD usually causes no signs and symptoms however it may

cause fatigue, pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen. NASH and

advanced scarring (cirrhosis) include abdominal swelling (ascites),

enlarged blood vessels beneath the skin's surface, an enlarged spleen, 

red palms and yellowing of the skin and eyes called jaundice.

Research is needed to identify why some people accumulate fat in the

liver while others do not or why some fatty livers develop

inflammation that progresses to cirrhosis.

NAFLD and NASH are both linked to obesity, insulin resistance, high blood sugar , indicating pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes and high levels of fats, particularly triglycerides in the blood. They also promote the deposit of fat in the liver. This excess fat in some people acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, that may lead to cirrhosis.

Conditions that may  increase  the risk of NAFLD include: high cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, metabolic syndrome,  obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hypopituitarism. However, NASH is seen more often in older individuals, people with diabetes, and people with body fat predominantly in the abdomen.

Research to identify NASH from NAFLD is sorely needed. To reduce your risk of NAFLD choose a plant-based diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Between 5% and 12% of people with NASH will progress to cirrhosis.  Advanced cirrhosis leads to cancer and end stage liver failure.

Currently there are no approved medications for NASH or NAFLD, calling attention to the  urgency for research to find effective treatments and a cure.

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