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A fatty liver is just that. A normal liver shouldn’t have any fat or very little if that. When you develop fatty liver disease, otherwise known as non-alcoholic hepatitis, it is because you have globules of fat, like triglyceride and cholesterol, which have accumulated in your liver cells. You can see the fat if you do a liver biopsy or a scan. It’s usually an accumulation of fat in the body that drives the accumulation of fat in the liver.
So, contrary to what most people think, it is often not due to alcohol but due to excess weight. Just as you can carry fat on your bottom or your tummy, you can carry fat around your liver.
Anybody who is overweight is susceptible to a fatty liver. It’s one of the most common presentations of liver disease in my clinic, but that is usually just the patients whose GP has noticed that they’ve got strange liver blood tests. There are an awful lot of people out there who have fatty livers and have no idea. They often have no symptoms or any idea that they have anything wrong with the liver. Hopefully most of them will continue to just have a fatty liver, but the worry is that, with the increasing numbers of obese people in population, we are going to be seeing a lot more late stage liver disease in the common decades. The problem with the liver is that it suffers in silence. You don’t get any symptoms from it until you get to a late stage when you start presenting complications. It’s when you start presenting complications that there is less we can do.
Lots of people don’t do enough exercise. I think this is the most common reason why people are overweight and have fatty livers, along with people eating too much. So we always encourage people to build some exercise into their lives. Sometimes this is hard to do, especially for people with sedentary jobs that sit in an office all day. You don’t have to do a lot of exercise. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to lose weight. Thirty minutes of exercise a day is probably a good guide.
I think most people recognise what foods are unhealthy. So things that have a lot of fat in them and have high amounts of sugar are not good for you. The main reason these foods are not good for you is that you take in too many calories without even realising that you’re doing it. The weight is then able to creep on. Obviously if you do have a very high fat diet, then you tend to put your blood cholesterol up and that’s another contributor to fatty liver.
Dr Mark Wright
10879 Published January 2013
Review Scheduled January 2014comments powered by Disqus