Is it just a little fatty liver? Understand why we shouldn’t underestimate her – 09/06/2022

Ignored by many, that fat accumulated in your liver can cause complications and progress to more serious conditions.

Hepatic steatosis, better known as fatty liver, occurs when the liver has an excessive accumulation of fat in its cells. This liver change contributes to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke) and various types of cancer.

The great concern is that this condition, despite not manifesting symptoms in most cases, is not innocent at all! Hepatic steatosis can progress to progressive degrees of inflammation in the organ, causing steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even leading to the need for liver transplantation. Hence the importance of not underestimating it and intervening as soon as possible!

The main factors associated with abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver are being overweight, sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes and poor eating habits.

Despite being more common in this risk group, it can be identified in thin people and a significant increase in cases has also been observed in children and adolescents, usually as a result of a poor lifestyle.

So, if you are overweight, have increased abdominal circumference, are sedentary, have pre-diabetes/diabetes, or are unable to control your cholesterol and triglycerides, I suggest you try to assess your liver health.

This year, June 9th was elected as the International Day for Awareness of Liver Disease Non-Alcoholic Fat (International NASH Day), in order to increase visibility and raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of this condition. When promptly treated, the condition can be reversed, without generating further complications.

Currently, hepatic steatosis is considered a silent epidemic, as it is one of the most common liver diseases, already affecting 115 million people worldwide, usually asymptomatic.

Due to its silent nature, many patients discover the problem incidentally by performing an abdominal ultrasound or measuring liver enzymes (TGO and TGP) in the blood in routine evaluations.

The increase in the number of cases of fatty liver is strongly correlated with the growing increase in obesity and its metabolic repercussions. Given this fact, specialists in the field have suggested changing its nomenclature to Metabolic Fatty Liver Disease (GMHD).

Latest data already point to DHGM as the most common liver disease worldwide and the third leading cause of liver cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of liver transplantation, with the prospect of leading this ranking in the near future.

Faced with such alarming numbers, in individuals with obesity or metabolic syndrome (hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes), screening for hepatic steatosis with liver enzymes and/or ultrasound is recommended as an initial investigation routine.

But calm down! It is possible to reverse this situation, especially in the early stages. The essential pillar of treatment consists of maintaining an adequate weight through regular physical exercise and a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, fruits and vegetables.

Discrete losses of around 5% of body weight are already potentially capable of improving steatosis and liver changes. For example, for a 100 kg man whose ideal weight would be 80 kg, weight reduction to 95 kg would already bring benefits to liver health, even without reaching the proper weight. However, more significant losses need to be stimulated, as the greater the weight loss (> 5-7%), the greater the response in reducing inflammation and stabilizing fibrosis.

Finally, it is essential to define the degree of liver involvement of each patient, in order to understand the risks and direct the best approach. Thus, with early identification and intervention, this condition can be controllable or even reversible.

References

1. https://www.international-nash-day.com
2. Anstee QM, Reeves HL, Kotsiliti E, Govaere O, Heikenwalder M. From NASH to HCC: current concepts and future challenges. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;16(7):411-28.
3. Chalasani N, Younossi Z, Lavine JE, Charlton M, Cusi K, Rinella M, et al. The diagnosis and management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Practice guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology. 2018;67(1):328-57.

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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