Liver disease has most commonly been associated with excessive alcohol use or hepatitis b or c infection. However, in recent years, the most common cause of liver disease in the EU and the US has not been alcohol abuse or hepatitis infection, but poor diet quality and sedentary lifestyle behaviours. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the condition whereby excess fat builds up in liver, causing it to function poorly. Fatty liver is very common, with prevalence rates in the EU varying from 17 to 46% of the population. That figure doubles for individuals with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The more severe form of fatty liver is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, whereby the processes of fatty infiltration of the liver also results in inflammation, scarring, and fibrosis.
Although the condition is increasingly common, awareness among patients and medics is low, leading to under-diagnosis, delay of management or treatment and increased mortality due to the progressive nature of the disease. At present, there are no pharmaceutical treatments for fatty liver, and nothing your doctor can prescribe in a way that would be similar if it were high cholesterol or tonsillitis, for example. As the majority of cases of NAFLD relate to diet and lifestyle, this is where the modifications need to be made. Weight loss and improved dietary quality are the primary methods for managing and reversing NAFLD.