Fatty Liver: The Epidemic of 21st century

Fatty Liver: The Epidemic of 21st century

Fatty Liver: The Epidemic of 21st century

Liver disease has become a growing global health concern in this 21st century with the advent of globalization and information technology. As our everyday lives turn more and more fast-paced, many of us do not practise healthy eating habits. Sometimes we starve ourselves all day, then gorge ourselves during bedtime. Or maybe we nearly always eat on the run, standing up or while driving.

These unhealthy dietary behaviours have resulted in increasing fat mass among the population in many countries. According to a recent study by British Medical Journal (BMJ), Malaysia is the fattest country in Asia, with nearly half the adult population now being overweight or obese. Obesity is strongly associated with multiple comorbidities and results in substantially increased all-cause mortality.

In addition, obesity causes build-up of extra fat in the liver cells that is not caused by alcohol use. This condition is known as ‘Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)’. While it is normal for the liver to contain some fat, obese people tend to accumulate extra fat in the liver cells.

Over time, the excessive accumulation of fat in the liver causes the liver cells to become inflamed and damaged. In some patients, this eventually leads to liver fibrosis (scarring) and cirrhosis (irreversible scarring), which then results in other health complications, including liver failure, liver cancer and even mortality.

Ironically, fatty liver has become known as the “silent” liver disease. Many people with risk factors likely have it but are completely unaware because they may experience minimal to no symptoms at all. Fatty liver can progress for years or decades undiagnosed.  More than 10 percent of the global adult population is estimated to be living with this disease. Risk factors for it include type 2 diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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