Ever heard of Hepatic Steatosis? That’s the medical term for a fatty liver. A fatty liver is one in which there is an abnormal and excessive build up of fat in the cells. If the fat in your liver accounts for more than 10% of your liver’s weight, then you have fatty liver and you could develop more serious complications.
Most people know that alcoholics develop liver damage as a consequence of chronic alcohol consumption. But not all fatty livers are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It’s estimated that over one third of Americans suffer from fatty liver disease. That’s over 60 million people, and these are people who don’t have a history of high alcohol consumption.
This type of fatty liver is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and it’s a concern because just like the type that alcoholics get, NAFLD can lead to an inflamed liver, and set the sufferer up for a higher risk of liver cancer. There’s another type of fatty liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. This basically means a liver inflamed because it contains too much fat.
Worse, a fatty liver produces no symptoms on its own, so people often only learn about their fatty liver when they have medical tests for other reasons.
So, what causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
There are many different causes for NAFLD. Many medical sites, including the American Liver Foundation mentions elevated triglycerides, but stops short of recommending a treatment.
So then, what causes elevated triglycerides? As it turns out, a diet high in carbohydrates, especially a diet high in fructose, has been shown to elevate triglyceride levels, and as a consequence, worsen NAFLD.
On average, Americans eat about 75 pounds of fructose per year, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is added to just about every processed food, and it’s in foods that you wouldn’t suspect, including artificial crabmeat, soups, and other supposedly non-sweet foods. And study after study has shown that fructose elevates triglyceride levels and increases inflammation in the liver. Fructose is metabolized exclusively in the liver, and a diet heavy in fructose takes a toll on the liver.
In addition, a high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats also contributes to fatty liver disease. Omega-6 fats include vegetable oils such as corn, canola, and soybean oils. (Omega-6 oils do not include olive oil, and nut oils; these are monounsaturated oils.)
For more information, visit my Fatty Liver page to find out how you can maintain a healthy liver!
Until next time, wishing you happy and healthy eating!