I was taught that fatty liver was the earliest manifestation of liver disease seen in alcoholism. In the last 10 years we have been seeing a new variation of fatty liver, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). It is estimated that 20% to 30% of the general population currently have NAFLD!! Obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome are the biggest risk factors but genetics plays a role as well. In obese persons, the prevalence of fatty liver is 67% – 75%!!
How did this epidemic come about? It is purely due to our 21st Century diets. A diet high in saturated fats AND highly refined carbohydrates (sugar) is not a normal diet. Think about a Big Mac, Fries, a Chocolate Shake and a DQ Sundae OR a Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza with a soda (full of high fructose corn syrup, HFCS) and Cheesecake for dessert. These foods create chaos in our metabolism. There’s too much “fuel” coming in at once and the cells don’t know which fuel they should burn to make energy – fat or sugar. Fat begins to accumulate inside the muscles and liver.
Fatty Liver causes no symptoms. It may be discovered by a liver blood test or ultrasound. It is reversible if caught early but 40 – 50% of people will progress to inflammation and scarring and some of those will develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. While the food industry attempts to addict us to sugary, fatty processed foods, the health care system is preparing for a record number of liver transplants in the next 10 – 20 years.
Fatty Liver is reversible in this early stage by losing weight, lowering highly refined carbohydrate foods (processed foods, sweets, breads and pastas) AND lowering saturated fats. We encourage eating leaner proteins, lots of vegetables and some fruits. Fish oil and Delta/Gamma tocotrienols have been shown to protect against development of fatty liver, and possibly reverse it!! And we need to get the food industry and the healthcare system to work for the same goals. Feeding people in a healthy way will save lives, save money and be our saving grace.
Dr Kate Thomsen’s office for holistic health care is located in Pennington, NJ. She is trained in Family Medicine, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, and is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. She has been practicing Functional Medicine for 20 years. For more information see www.drkatethomsen.com or call the office at 609-818-9700.