About our livers:
Our livers may be the unsung heroes of our bodies, serving numerous indispensable roles. One of their most important roles is acting as a gatekeeper, protectively screening and filtering substances which might harm our heart or brain.
While it is natural for our livers to contain some fat, when the level progresses to 5-10%1 of your liver’s weight, it is called fatty liver (hepatic steatosis).
What are NAFLD and NASH & why does it matter?
If fatty liver is not caused by alcohol consumption (defined as >21 drinks/week for men and >14 drinks/week for women2) then it is referred to as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
Along with obesity, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) has been described as “the new pandemic of the 21st century.”3 Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), is a more severe form of NAFLD that includes inflammation (hepatitis) and liver cell damage that may lead to permanent scarring (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.4
The infographic below outlines the key points about NAFLD and its progression to NASH:
What causes NAFLD & NASH?
The exact cause is unknown but certain health conditions such being overweight or obese, having high blood sugars or Type 2 Diabetes, and high levels of fat (especially triglycerides) in the bloodstream have all been linked to NAFLD and NASH.5 Also where you carry your weight might matter. Lean patients with a normal BMI (<25 kg/m2) but with a waist circumference >35” for women and >40” for men were at increased risk for developing NAFLD6 as well as complications from the disease. 7
If diagnosed, what does the treatment look like?
Currently there are no medicines approved to treat NAFLD. While new treatment options are being discovered, your doctor will likely recommend gradually losing weight, healthy diet changes, and being physically active to improve NAFLD and NASH. Even modest weight loss of 3-5% of your body weight can reduce fat in your liver and losing up to 10% can reduce liver inflammation. 8,9
What’s the good news?
NASH or NAFLD may be prevented or reversed by following a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise (moderate exercise 3-4 times/week3), and eating a healthy diet can reduce liver fat. 9,10 Your Medifast team is here to support you to achieve your health & wellness goals.
- American Liver Foundation. https://liverfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ALF-NAFLD-NASH-Infographic.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2018.
- Pfotenhauer K, Young CF, Dugan J, et al. (2018). Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease [monograph]. Primary Care Reports. Relias Web Site. https://www.ahcmedia.com/articles/142607-nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease Published May 1, 2018. Accessed June 23, 2018.
- Machado MV, Cortex-Pinto H. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: What the clinician needs to know. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014;20(36):12956-12980.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash/definition-facts. Accessed June 24, 2018.
- Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567. Accessed June 23, 2018.
- Balakrishnan M, El-Serag HBB, Nyugen T, et al. (June 30, 2017) Waist circumference superior to other fat measures for NAFLD risk. Clinical Gastroenterology Hepatology Web Site. https://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(17)30737-1/fulltext?code=yjcgh-site. Published December 2017. Accessed June 24, 2018.
- European Association for the Study of the Liver. Waist not weight: Key to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Non-obese patients with a large waist circumference are at risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease complications. Science Daily Web Site. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160416090023.htm. Published April 16, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2018.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash/treatment. Accessed June 23, 2018.
- Romero-Gómez M, Zelber-Sagi S, Trenell M. Treatment of NAFLD with diet, physical activity and exercise. Journal of Hepatology. 2017;67(4):829-846.
- American Liver Foundation. https://liverfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/NAFLD-At-A-Glance-2015.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2018.