Weight loss is best treatment for fatty liver disease
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 4:50 AM
Dear Doctor K: My doctor says I have fatty liver disease, but I rarely drink.
Dear Reader: It used to be that fatty liver disease was usually caused by abusing alcohol. However, it has also been true that obesity and diabetes could cause fatty liver. Perhaps you have one of these conditions.
Scientists suspect the condition gets started because of insulin resistance (itself a consequence of obesity). When people are insulin-resistant, their muscle, fat and liver cells don't respond normally to insulin. So levels of the hormone - and the blood sugar it ushers into cells - build up in the blood. This increases the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
In people with insulin resistance, there is an increase in the amount of fat molecules circulating in the blood. In addition, liver cells are more likely to take fat molecules out of the blood and store the fat inside them. When these liver cells start to store fat, they can begin to cause inflammation in the liver. Immune system cells enter the liver, and sometimes scars start to form. This condition is called NASH. Between 5 percent to 10 percent of people with fatty liver disease develop NASH.
NASH is often a low-grade condition that people live with for years. But it can also start a cascade of serious damage to the liver. And fatty liver disease may add to the already high risk of heart disease if you are obese or have diabetes.
The best treatment is weight loss, ideally from changes in diet and an increase in physical activity.
There's been some research into using diabetes drugs, vitamin E and fish oil to treat fatty liver disease and NASH. But there's not enough evidence yet to recommend them.
However, we do know this: (1) if you are overweight or obese, losing weight will help reduce the fatty liver; (2) if you have diabetes, treatments for it (particularly those that act to reduce insulin resistance) also often help.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106