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Fatty liver: 5 lifestyle habits that increase the risk, and ways to address it

lifestyle habits that could lead to fatty liver

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common but often underestimated health issue characterized by the accumulation of fat in liver cells, which can lead to serious complications. While genetics and metabolic factors play a role, various lifestyle habits significantly increase the risk of developing fatty liver.

Here are five of these habits and their impacts on liver health:

Poor Dietary Choices: A primary contributor to NAFLD is a diet high in unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and excessive calories. Overindulging in sugary beverages, processed foods, and fast food can result in fat buildup in the liver. Of particular concern is the consumption of excess fructose, typically found in high-fructose corn syrup and sugary snacks, as the liver metabolizes it into fat. To maintain a healthy liver, it is crucial to adopt a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Sedentary Lifestyle: The absence of physical activity is another lifestyle habit that raises the risk of developing fatty liver. Regular exercise is beneficial in regulating body weight and enhancing insulin sensitivity. Sedentary individuals are more likely to develop obesity and insulin resistance, both closely linked to the onset of fatty liver. Even moderate physical activity can significantly diminish this risk.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Although excessive alcohol intake primarily leads to alcoholic fatty liver disease, it exacerbates risk factors for NAFLD. Heavy drinking can result in liver inflammation, scarring, and cirrhosis. Maintaining liver health necessitates avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.

Obesity and Central Obesity: Being overweight, especially having an excess of abdominal fat (central obesity), is a major risk factor for fatty liver. Fat cells in the abdominal region release inflammatory substances, contributing to insulin resistance and encouraging fat accumulation in the liver. Shedding excess weight through a combination of dietary adjustments and exercise is a critical measure for reducing the risk of fatty liver.

Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes: Insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, is closely associated with fatty liver. Insulin resistance prompts the pancreas to produce additional insulin to compensate, resulting in an increased accumulation of fat in the liver. Over time, this may progress to type 2 diabetes, a significant risk factor for a more severe form of fatty liver known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Reducing the Risk

Lifestyle factors significantly contribute to the development of NAFLD. Poor dietary choices, sedentary behavior, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, central obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes all elevate the risk. The good news is that many of these factors can be addressed through lifestyle changes. Embracing a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, and managing body weight are fundamental steps toward diminishing the risk of fatty liver and preserving overall liver health. Regular medical check-ups and consultations with healthcare professionals are crucial for the early identification and management of these risk factors, ultimately preventing the progression of fatty liver to more severe liver conditions.

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