Fatty liver disease is caused due to an accumulation of fat in the liver. This may occur due to an excess consumption of alcohol, hepatitis C, obesity, an excess of iron in the body, and diabetes. It is estimated that nearly 30% of Americans suffer from some form of fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is one of the major causes of chronic liver disease globally. It is known to affect mostly heavy drinkers.
There are two types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) does not have any permanent effects on the body. However, it can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. This can further progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer. There are no clear symptoms of fatty liver disease. However, certain risk factors indicate a high probability of developing fatty liver disease. Here are a few risk factors for fatty liver disease:
- Overeating: Binge eating or overeating is one of the first signs of fatty liver disease. If someone has frequent cravings for sugar or tends to feel hungry all the time, it might indicate a high probability of liver disease. Consuming too many calories or processed sugar-based foods may increase the risk factor. It is necessary to be mindful of what is being eaten and the frequency of meals.
- Excess visceral fat: Visceral fat is the kind of fat that is stored in the stomach. This is what gives an enlarged gut, or a pot belly. Obesity and being overweight leads to excess visceral fat in the body. Processing fat is one of the main functions of the liver. An excess of visceral fat may make it difficult for the liver to process the additional fat. This will increase the risk of fatty liver disease.
- High cholesterol in the blood: High cholesterol indicates the presence of high levels of fat in the bloodstream. These can be either in the form of triglycerides or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). When the diet has a high percentage of saturated and trans fat, it leads to a high production of fat in the blood by the liver. Thus, the possibility of a fatty liver increases.
- Diabetes: It is recommended that a person with diabetes should undergo tests to check for fatty liver disease. Although there might not be any clear indicators of NAFLD in diabetics, it has been found that many people who have type-2 diabetes also suffer from NAFLD. NAFLD only becomes apparent after an imaging test such as an MRI.