According to the American Liver Association, approximately 30% of the US population have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is defined as accumulation of liver fat in people who drink little or no alcohol and is often associated with obesity.
The increasing prevalence of NAFLD
Many people believe that developing liver disease can only be done through high-consumption of alcohol however, America’s growing epidemic of obesity is starting to prove otherwise.
Over the past three decades, the percentage of obese Americans has grown from less than 10% in 1985 to more than 60% today. With this increase in obesity, doctors are noticing a higher percentage of individuals developing NAFLD, amongst many other obesity-related health issues.
The dangers of developing NAFLD
NAFLD presents its own special set of challenges, including the fact that NAFLD is most often asymptomatic before it can start causing problems. While it’s root cause, obesity, has a number of noticeable symptoms like back & joint pain and high blood pressure, the liver may not show off any symptoms until five to ten years after developing NAFLD.
Some of the more noticeable symptoms of NAFLD include:
If the liver is not treated for NAFLD during its early stages, inflammation and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or chronic viral hepatitis can occur as well as lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How NAFLD can be reversed or treated
The following actions can help reverse or treat NAFLD:
- reduce weight (if obese or overweight)
- follow a balanced and healthy diet
- increase physical activity
- avoid alcohol
- avoid unnecessary medications
Among the most critical unmet needs for NAFLD are improving awareness and education amongst doctors and peers.