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Obesity Linked to Liver Disease

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Most of us think of liver disease as a condition that’s associated with regularly drinking too much alcohol. But now experts say that being obese may also increase the risk of liver disease.

The British Liver Trust reveals that recent research in the US and Europe has shown that obesity speeds up the progression of liver disease from a fatty liver through to fibrosis, cirrhosis and ultimately liver cancer. In particular, it’s a combination of a poor diet and excess alcohol – which provides ‘empty’ calories – that exacerbates liver disease.

Alison Rogers, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust says, “Our unhealthy lifestyle is storing huge problems for the future. With over 4,000 people dying from alcoholic cirrhosis each year, we need to convey the message that if you are overweight and drink regularly, you are causing even more work for your liver, an organ already carrying out hundreds of jobs that are vital to your life.”

WLR says:

Being overweight or obese puts additional strain on every single part of our bodies, and our liver is no exception.

The liver has many functions. As well as providing an instant store of energy called ‘glycogen’ for times when the body needs to boost blood sugar levels, the liver helps to process fats and proteins from digested foods. It also makes bile, which helps to digest fats, and removes or processes alcohol, poisons and toxins from the body.

Drinking too much alcohol, being obese (even if you don’t drink) or having diabetes can all result in a condition called fatty liver, where fat starts to build up in the cells of the liver. In some cases, this extra fat causes the liver to become inflamed, a condition called steatohepatits (steato means fat and hepatitis means inflammation of the liver). This can eventually cause scarring of the liver or cirrhosis.

Ultimately, the best way to prevent your liver from becoming fatty in the first place or to reverse the process, is to lose weight if you need to and to only drink alcohol within safe limits – that’s a maximum of 2-3 units daily for women and 3-4 units daily for men. Better still, drinking less alcohol will help to cut calories, which in turn will aid Weight Loss – and both of these things are great news for keeping your liver in tip-top health.

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