top of page

What is NAFLD and why is it on the rise?

When we talk about a fatty liver it is about having too much adipose tissue in the liver, which keeps it from functioning properly. And that’s bad.

The liver is the largest organ in our body and of its many functions, removing toxins from the blood is the most important. It is also helps regulate blood sugar levels and blood clotting, among many other functions vital to our health.

That is why the increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is on the rise, is a concern among leading health organizations worldwide.

NAFLD is different from ALD, which is alcoholic liver disease, and while both increase the fat in the liver, it derives from different, yet related activities. While ALD is primarily derived from heavy alcohol consumption, NAFLD is a fatty liver present in someone who does not drink or drinks little. Yet, the primary activities all point to a more Westernized lifestyle, which includes a sedentary lifestyle, calorie-dense meals, and concurrently we are seeing an increase in alcohol consumption, especially from an earlier age, and this is happening globally.

Both lead to fibrosis, and steatohepatitis, and ultimately, cirrhosis. There is no cure for this except prevention, in drinkers and non-drinkers.

The prevalence of NAFLD globally is suspected to be approximately 25% of the population, with a concentration in the Middle East and South America, at about 30%. Rates are at 13% in Africa, while the estimates for NAFLD in the USA and North America are reported at anywhere from 21% - 24%, which is similar to the number in Europe.

Due to socio-economic changes in Asia, it is suggested that the trend will continue and impact this area of the world just as significantly. As obesity continues to rise, people are able to eat more food, and food products which are laden with sugar and chemicals, and have increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the lower- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa will be impacted equally by this epidemic.

NAFLD is closely tied to obesity across the spectrum. In fact, 95% of bariatric surgery candidates suffer from NAFLD.

And obesity is part of the metabolic syndrome that I have discussed many times in the past, which includes conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and a propensity towards belly weight. All of this increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and now NAFLD. Metabolic syndrome is often interchangeably called insulin resistance syndrome.

NAFLD and ageing are strongly correlated with many people age 50 and over progressing more rapidly through the progression of the disease.

There doesn’t appear to be any strong indicators of whether males or females are more likely to develop the disease.

However, with most of the studies being done in the USA, it appears that Hispanic Americans have the highest prevalence, followed by European-descent Americans and lastly African Americans.

Even though there is more obesity among African Americans than Hispanic, this points to the genetic element of NAFLD as well as the epigenetics (lifestyle, diet and environmental factors), determining outcomes. There are variances among Hispanics, dependent on the country of origin.

And there are also cases of non-obese or lean NAFLD, mostly in Asian countries. And we haven’t even touched on childhood obesity and diabetes which is increasing and contributing to later development of NAFLD.

It is all connected. To the lifestyle. And it negatively impacts all of us if we don’t make changes.

If this concerns you, as it should, I strongly recommend that you check yourself against the factors that make up metabolic or insulin resistant syndrome.

Ask yourself, Do I have (3) or more of these conditions?

1. Abdominal fat (waistline bigger than 35”)?

2. High Blood Sugar (reading higher than 100, fasting)?

3. High Blood Pressure (over 130-139)?

4. High serum triglycerides (200 -499 dl)?

5. Low serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – < 40mg/dL for men, and <50mg/dL for women?

If so, this is putting you on a dangerous, but changeable, track. Start making some changes to your lifestyle right away.

And if you need help, I will be hosting a FREE 5-day Whole Food Spring Cleanse, starting on Tuesday, May 31 (YES, right after Memorial Day) in my Facebook group. It will include everything you need to successfully remove fats, sugars, gluten and other bad stuff from your diet, by crowding it out with all kinds of healthy, good, and good-tasting whole foods. You will get recipes, a shopping list, structure and community support throughout. Please join me by registering here. And if you found this article informative, please share.

27 views0 comments


bottom of page