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Should You Be Screened for Fatty Liver Disease?

Should You Be Screened for Fatty Liver Disease?

Find out the risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and tips for prevention.

In ancient Mesopotamia, it was thought the shape, size and texture of the liver of slaughtered sheep revealed devine insights into an individual’s problems.

Of course, these days we know the appearance of your liver (no slaughter needed!) provides insight into your health. And one of the biggest tells is the damaging accumulation of fatty deposits in the organ itself.

What causes fatty liver disease? In the past, it was mostly associated with excessive alcohol consumption, but these days, many people develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) because of a lack of physical activity and a diet high in fat and sugar. Less commonly, they may have a genetic predisposition.

NAFLD affects about 100 million adults in America and, shockingly, about 34 percent of obese children. That’s up from less than five million adults and less than 1 percent of children in 1990. Our genes haven’t changed since then, but our food choices have.

However, early detection can help reverse the condition. That’s why researchers are proposing that anyone with extra weight around their middle (visceral abdominal fat), as well as those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, be screened for NAFLD. Initially, that involves an ultrasound of your liver. If that shows fat deposits, see a specialist.

Losing just 5 percent of your weight can reduce the fat in your liver by up to 30 percent! So get in your 10,000 daily steps (track your steps on the Sharecare app for iOS and Android), eat a plant-centric diet with no red or processed meats and ditch added sugars and syrups.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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