Dr. Oz: What Is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
There’s a new hidden health threat that could be making millions of Americans sick. It’s called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and it’s growing at alarming rates. The disease can be deadly, even if you drink little or no alcohol. The epidemic has caught the medical community by surprise. 30 years ago, it was a rare diagnosis in this country. But today, nearly 30 million Americans have it and another 50 million could have it and not even know it.
So what’s the cause for this condition? The standard American diet: a diet high in carbs, sugar, and fat. Nearly 2 in 3 Americans are overweight or obese and those Americans are at the greatest risk. Extra calories fill the liver with fat, causing inflammation and scarring. They can cause your liver to shut down and fail. Doctors fear that this disease will spiral out of control in the next few years as obesity rates rise.
Dr. Oz: Who’s At Risk For Fatty Liver Disease?
Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist, came by Dr. Oz to discuss this troubling disease. She said that this disease has been upgraded to an epidemic. She said anyone who is overweight is at risk and the disease has even been seen in people with normal weight. People who put a lot of weight around the middle, people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes or pre-diabetes are risk factors. Even being just a small amount overweight can affect you. Gaining twenty pounds gain increase your risk factor by 10 percent.
Dr. Oz: Liver Disease Symptoms
Dr. Oz demonstrated what a normal liver looks like, which was small and brown, and a liver with too much fat in it, which was large and pale. He said if the liver has too much fat in it, it can develop into cirrhosis. Even if you don’t drink, it can still develop into cirrhosis.
This disease is called a silent killer because so many people who have it are asymptomatic. The symptoms can be non-specific or you can have no symptoms at all. But symptoms include fatigue, weight loss or diminished appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain in the right upper quadrant where the liver is located.
The good news is that this disease is a progression. You can start out with some fat in the liver and stay there and not progress. A significant number will progress to inflammation of the liver and some of those will progress to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is irreversible, but the other two can be reversed.
Dr. Oz: Detecting Liver Disease
Doctors can detect an enlarged liver during a physical exam by feeling the right upper quadrant. There’s also a simple blood test. If doctors suspect it’s liver disease, they’ll use an ultrasound exam or an MRI of the abdomen to examine the liver.
Dr. Chutkan said most people who have liver disease are put on a strict diet and exercise regimen to get them to lose weight. After about three months, they test for liver disease again. If they’re back to normal, that’s a great sign. If they’re not, they need a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and to see whether there’s inflammation or scarring in the liver.
Dr. Oz: Preventing Liver Disease
To prevent liver disease, you can eat vitamin E-rich foods, such as avocados, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. These are foods that can also help you lose weight. You can also take a vitamin E supplement, but the food option is more preferable because it helps you lose weight.