Causes of Fatty liver disease other than alcohol abuse

Jan 15, 2024


- Dr. Ankur Garg, HOD and Senior Consultant, HPB Surgery and Liver Transplant, Sanar International Hospitals

The liver is one of the most vital organs in the human body, and a healthy liver is the key to a fit life. It’s highly important to avoid alcohol consumption in order to maintain good liver health, but are you aware that other than alcohol abuse, your diet and lifestyle habits significantly affect your liver and add to the risk of chronic liver diseases? A number of statistics confirm that Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is one of the leading causes of liver diseases. According to the National Library of Medicine, NAFLD has a global prevalence of around 25%. Consumption of alcohol undoubtedly damages the liver as it accumulates fat in it, which further potentially results in diseases like fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, etc. but what are the other factors that one needs to take care of? Let’s get more insights:

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): As mentioned, NAFLD refers to the severe accumulation of fat in the liver, which is more commonly associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. It leads to inflammation and liver damage if not treated on time. There are preventable causes that can save us from developing NAFLD:

  • Obesity: Excessive weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, increases the risk of developing a fatty liver. Obesity is closely linked to NAFLD.
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes: more diabetic patients face this condition. Insulin resistance is a condition where body cells become less responsive to insulin, and this is often associated with obesity, which further leads to the accumulation of fat in the liver.
  • High levels of triglycerides: Very few people know that there are certain types of fats, and triglycerides are one of them that run in your blood. Now, elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood can contribute to a fatty liver.
  • Rapid weight loss: Many people are seen following crash diets these days with the intent to have a healthy body, but this sudden drop in weight can enhance the risk of a number of hazards. Losing weight too quickly, especially through crash diets, can cause fatty livers because of the excessive release of fatty acids from fat tissues.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, tamoxifen, methotrexate, and antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV, can also cause fatty liver.
  • Certain medical conditions: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, and Wilson disease (a genetic disorder affecting copper metabolism) are some of the medical conditions that may lead to the accumulation of fat in your liver.
  • Nutritional factors: Poor diet and unhealthy eating habits, especially diets high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods, induce greater risk to the liver's health.
  • Genetics: Genetic factors also play an important role in developing NAFLD. Keep an eye on your medical history.

Considering the above conditions, fatty liver can be prevented with some lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid the accumulation of fat in your liver by avoiding alcohol intake and excessive junk food.
  • Adding to the above point, excessive consumption of butter, oil, and processed foods increases the level of triglycerides, which start accumulating in your liver. Hence, limit their intake.
  • Maintain an ideal weight with proper exercise and diet.
  • Maintain your diet chart wisely with the help of an expert; avoid any crash diet without an evaluation of your health and a doctor's advice.
  • If you have a family history of any genetic condition, be regular with your check-ups and all required tests in order to avoid any risk later.
  • As people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing a fatty liver, they are advised to be in touch with their concerned doctors and follow their suggestions.

Good liver health requires a comprehensive approach. Work on your underlying causes, never ignore any symptoms, and consult your concerned doctors as early as possible.