Published on Oct 12, 2020
Authored by Krishan Thiru, MBBS, MHA, FRACGP
There's a widely unknown condition lurking underneath excess belly fat. It's called fatty liver disease. Researchers estimate that up to one-third of people globally are affected. The trouble is, you cannot feel anything wrong until it's too late. For some people, it can cause liver damage, including liver cancer and the need for a transplant. You may have watched my video where I talk about some of the risk factors. Please watch it if you haven't already. In this article, I provide more facts about fatty liver disease so that you can stay healthy and avoid unnecessary medical complications.
Firstly, what does the liver do? The liver is the largest organ inside the human body. It stores energy, assists with digestion and helps process drugs and chemicals.
Fatty liver disease involves the build-up of fat inside the liver.
There are two types of fatty liver disease:
A variety of factors may increase an individual's risk of developing NAFLD, including:
Some people don't develop any health problems because of fatty liver disease. However, others develop Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). This condition causes scarring of the liver and affects the liver's ability to function. It can also lead to liver cancer. Damage to the liver can be so severe that a liver transplant may be the best treatment option.
In fact, Fatty Liver Disease can cause issues outside of the liver, too. People with NAFLD are also more likely to develop heart disease than people without liver disease.
You can see belly fat; you can't see a fatty liver. You usually can't feel it either – symptoms don't usually show up until after significant liver damage has already occurred. So, regular health check-ups and healthy lifestyle choices are essential.
If you are overweight, losing weight can decrease the fat in your liver and improve liver function. Eat a healthy diet; choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat over processed foods and those high in sugar.
Together, you and your healthcare provider can develop an individualised plan to decrease your risk of fatty liver disease and liver damage.
Last reviewed: 8/10/2019
-Liver Foundation: Health and Prevention
-The Obesity Collective
-Diabetes Australia: Risk Calculator
-Diabetes New Zealand
-Heart Foundation Australia: Healthy Eating To Protect Your Heart
-Heart Foundation Australia: Absolute CVD Calculator
-Health Navigator New Zealand: Obesity
-Heart Foundation New Zealand