CASES of a deadly non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have been soaring over the past three decades, according to a new study.
The condition, which causes inflammation of the organ, can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.
The US survey found rates of the disease were increasing most rapidly among white Americans – by 133 per cent over three decades.
There are often no symptoms, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose.
According to the British Liver Trust, one in three people have early stage non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
And 20 per cent cent of those will go on to develop the more serious form which can lead to cirrhosis or cancer – both of which can be deadly.
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Certain diseases – such as obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – are known to increase the risk of NAFLD.
“More and more people are getting extra fat in their livers,” said co-author Dr. Theodore Friedman, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, US.
The expert suggest the surge in cases could be due to western diets which tend to be high in fatty and processed foods.
He said: “It’s a disease that develops because people are eating poorly and not exercising.
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“I always tell patients to eat more vegetables".
To investigate the growing rates of NAFLD, the US scientists examined data from 32,726 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Analysis of the results revealed that overall, NAFLD rose from 16 per cent in 1988 to 37 per cent in 2018.
How to know if you're affected
The tricky thing is, it can be hard to spot the signs of NAFLD because it often doesn't present any symptoms.
When it does, they include:
- enlarged liver
- feeling tired all the time
- pain in the right upper abdomen
Other possible signs include:
- stomach swelling or bloating
- enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface
- enlarged breasts or 'moobs' in men
- enlarged spleen
- red palms
- yellowing of the skin and eyes, also known as jaundice
How to prevent it
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the main way of managing NAFLD.
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The NHS suggest the following can all help.
- Lose weight: you should aim for a BMI of 18.5-24.9. Losing more weight can remove some fat from the liver
- Eat a healthy diet: high in fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, but low in fat, sugar and salt
- Exercise regularly: aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, a week
- Stop smoking: smoking increases your risk of problems such as heart attacks and strokes
- Don't drink: NAFLD isn't caused by alcohol, but drinking may make the condition worse
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