Digestive System


Diagnosing and Treating Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

There ought to be a Liver Appreciation Day. The liver is not only the largest solid organ in the body, but it is the only organ that can regenerate. And it performs more than 500 functions in the body, including filtering and eliminating toxins from the blood, producing bile (to break down fats), making proteins and blood plasma, turning excess glucose into glycogen for storage, and facilitating the clotting of blood.

Unfortunately, the liver is susceptible to a wide range of factors that can negatively impact its health and function — factors that cause different types of liver disease, which can be grouped by cause:

  • Liver diseases caused by viruses, such as hepatitis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver diseases, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), caused by alcohol, drugs, or other toxins
  • Inherited liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis and Wilson disease
  • Fatty liver disease (an accumulation of excess fat in the liver), which may or may not be related to heavy consumption of alcohol

Fatty liver disease not caused by excessive alcohol consumption is referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is becoming more and more prevalent around the world, affecting on average about 25 percent of the population. NAFLD is especially common in advanced Western nations. In fact, here in the United States, NAFLD is, by far, the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting up to an estimated 30 percent of the population. NAFLD also accounts for more than 50 percent of all cases of chronic liver disease (followed by alcoholic liver disease, which accounts for slightly more than 20 percent).

Some people with NAFLD can go on to develop continue reading

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