How to Prevent a Fatty Liver
by Nicole Cutler
1. Fatty liver, also known as steatosis, is an accumulation of fat in the liver that
typically does not cause liver damage.

2. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the accumulation of fat in the liver
accompanied by hepatic inflammation. Fibrous tissue can form with NASH, which can
progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects more women than men and is found in all age
groups, including children. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is typically diagnosed in
middle-aged people who are overweight, diabetic and who have elevated cholesterol
and triglyceride levels. A person is considered to have a fatty liver when the fat
makes up at least 10% of the liver.

Causes of Fatty Liver

The cause of NAFLD is unclear. The most prominent reasons for accumulation of fat
in the liver are significant weight gain and diabetes mellitus. Fatty liver can also occur
with poor diet and certain illnesses, such as tuberculosis, intestinal bypass surgery for
obesity, and specific drugs such as corticosteroids, or heavy alcohol use. Eating fatty
food by itself does not produce a fatty liver.

Possible explanations for a fatty liver include:








Understanding Insulin Resistance

A hormone released by the pancreas, insulin is dispersed into the bloodstream in
response to elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels. By pushing glucose out of the
bloodstream and into the body's cells, insulin keeps blood glucose levels from
becoming too elevated. When these cells receive glucose, they convert it to energy.
When glucose is not metabolized properly, (when the cells are insulin-resistant),
energy production is diminished, resulting in fatigue.

Insulin resistance prohibits glucose from entering the cells, causing it to accumulate in
the blood. In an attempt to reduce the glucose in the blood, the body signals the
pancreas to produce and release more insulin. High blood insulin levels increase
triglycerides, which deposit fatty acids in the liver.

Being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a diet rich in sugar and fat all
promote insulin resistance. In extreme cases of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus
develops. Approximately 70 percent of diabetics have some form of NAFLD, and 5 to
20 percent of people with diabetes have cirrhosis due to NASH. Independent of fatty
liver disease, diabetes in itself is believed to be a risk factor for the development of
cirrhosis.

Corrective Action

Since some estimates suggest that as many as one in four people with NAFLD may
develop serious liver disease within 10 years, it is important to consider preventative
and treatment options. The preferred course of action will depend on each person's
fatty liver cause. Preferred methods include:








Due to their close relationship, recovering from a fatty liver is identical to the steps
necessary to combat insulin resistance A commitment to health through instituting
lifestyle changes is our nation's best hope for reducing the occurrence of nonalcoholic
fatty liver disease.

References:

Patrick, Lyn, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: relationship to insulin sensitivity and oxidative stress.
Treatment approaches using vitamin E, magnesium, and betaine, Alternative Medicine Review, 2002,
7(4):276-291.
http://www.liverdisease.com, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic
steatohepatitis (NASH), Melissa Palmer, MD, 2004.
http://www.liverfoundation.org/, What is NAFLD/NASH? (Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver
Disease/Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis), The American Liver Foundation, 2003.

http://www.mayoclinic.com, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Mayo Foundation, 2/21/2005.

http://www.medicinenet.com, Body Fat, The Silent Killer: Obesity Can Lead to Fatty Liver, Dennis
Lee, MD, 4/6/05.


About The Author

Nicole Cutler

This article was prepared for
. Visit us to learn more about liver
health,
and the benefits of .
Along with the increasing incidence of
obesity and diabetes in Western
countries, nonalcoholic fatty liver
disease (NAFLD) has also become a
growing problem. Although its true
prevalence is unknown, some
estimates suggest NAFLD may
already affect as many as one-third
of American adults.

NAFLD describes two conditions
affecting people who drink little or no
alcohol. The first is a mild condition,
while the second represents its
progression to a more severe disease.
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