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What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build-up of fat in liver cells. NAFLD can cause the liver to swell and can lead to cirrhosis and, rarely, has been known to cause liver cancer.
Yeisel Barquin, MD
Internal Medicine
Up to one in four adults in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition can become serious and is linked to being overweight or obese.

NAFLD refers to a buildup of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. It is normal for the liver to carry some fat, but if more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver.

The liver, which is the second largest organ in the body, processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients. The liver also removes harmful substances from your blood.

Many people live normal lives with NAFLD as long as they improve their diet, exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

In the most serious cases, NAFLD can cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis), which can lead to scarring (cirrhosis) over time -- and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.