1. What is fatty liver?
Fatty liver is a disease in which the liver increases the content of fats (triglycerides and cholesterol). This can cause the liver to increase in size and take on a yellowish color, leading in some cases to liver cirrhosis. It is often associated with overweight, poor eating habits, and lack of physical activity. Alcohol consumption is a frequent cause of fatty liver.
2. What are the symptoms of fatty liver?
Fatty liver does not generate symptoms in the vast majority of people. Some people report discomfort or mild pain in the right hypochondrium, which is the area to the right and above the abdomen. There are some physical changes that can be seen in people with fatty liver, such as a blackish coloration of the skin in the folds of the neck and armpits (called acanthosis nigricans).
3. How common is fatty liver?
Fatty liver is one of the most frequent metabolic disorders, affecting approximately 20% of the adult population. Up to 70% of people who suffer from obesity may have fatty liver.
4. What is the cause of fatty liver?
The cause of fatty liver is unknown. It is known that it is very frequently associated with a metabolic disorder called metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. This metabolic alteration is associated with unhealthy eating habits and physical activity. One of the frequent causes of fatty liver is alcohol consumption.
5. Is fatty liver genetic?
Fatty liver is not a hereditary disease, however, there is a certain family association, as there is some genetic predisposition to develop it and also because families often share eating habits that can favor the development of fatty liver.
6. What is the treatment for fatty liver?
The treatment for fatty liver consists mainly of modifying eating habits with a diet that reduces the consumption of carbohydrates (sugars, dough, potatoes, pasta, bread, corn) and fats. Along with healthier eating, increasing physical activity is key. Medications are not part of the usual treatment for fatty liver, but in certain cases, the use of vitamin E or pioglitazone may have a role in its therapy.
7. Is physical activity beneficial if I have fatty liver?
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to reverse the damage that occurs in the liver due to this condition. Exercise should be done with a gradual progression, ideally aerobic, regular (3 to 4 times per week), and with prior medical control that evaluates the cardiovascular safety of starting an exercise plan.
8. What diet should I follow if I have fatty liver?
Healthy eating is one of the two pillars of fatty liver treatment. This diet consists of drastically reducing or eliminating refined sugars, reducing carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, corn, reducing fats of animal origin, and on the other hand increasing vegetables, fish, nuts, and yogurt. The Mediterranean diet is probably one of the healthiest to avoid fatty liver while simultaneously reducing cardiovascular risk. While there is no specific diet for fatty liver, these general measures are of extreme importance in its treatment.
9. Can I drink alcohol if I have fatty liver?
Alcohol consumption, even in small amounts, can worsen liver damage in a person with fatty liver. For this reason, its complete suspension is recommended in people affected by this disease. This suspension has the additional benefit of reducing the calories that enter the body, helping to lose weight, as alcoholic beverages are a considerable source of calories.
10. Can fatty liver be cured?
One of the characteristics of fatty liver is its reversibility. People who manage to make a change in their habits, losing weight and increasing physical activity, can completely recover from this disease.
11. How is the severity of fatty liver graded?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver can be divided into simple
fatty liver when there is fat accumulation without inflammation and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis when it is accompanied by inflammation and damage. The way to differentiate these two entities is through blood tests (aminotransferases) and in some cases through liver biopsy.
12. What are the risks of fatty liver?
Fatty liver usually evolves without symptoms for several years, even decades. Some people may develop more serious consequences of the disease, resulting in progressive liver damage (fibrosis), leading to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). When these complications occur, one of the possible options is liver transplantation. Apart from the liver complications themselves, people with fatty liver have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke and diabetes mellitus.