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New Study Links Fast Food Consumption to Liver Disease

New Study Links Fast Food Consumption to Liver Disease

It’s no secret that eating fast food regularly can be linked to many health problems including obesity, diabetes, increased cholesterol, heart disease and even depression. Now, the latest research uncovers a direct correlation to fast food consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a potentially life-threatening condition in which fat builds up in the liver. Most fast food is high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar that causes weight gain and stress on the body, especially the liver.

NAFLD is the most common form of chronic liver disease in the United States and affects about one-third of the population. The study found that people who eat one meal a day at a fast-food restaurant significantly increase their risk of developing liver disease. It also reported that people with obesity or diabetes who consume 20 percent or more of their daily calories from fast food have dangerously elevated levels of fat in their liver compared to those who consumed less or no fast food at all. Most healthy livers contain small amounts of fat, usually about 5 percent, but the study found that even a moderate increase in fat can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

NAFLD usually causes no signs or symptoms, but when it does, they can include pain or discomfort in the right upper abdomen or fatigue. Unlike other types of liver disease, NAFLD can be controlled and in many cases reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. Experts suggest that even a 3 to 5 percent reduction in total body weight can have a large impact on your liver health. If left untreated, liver disease can also lead to cirrhosis which can cause liver cancer or liver failure.

Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others don’t, but a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing liver disease. Choose a healthy diet rich in colorful fruits, vegetable, whole grains and healthy fats. Limit the amount of fast food and reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Add exercise to your daily and weekly routine when possible. Both diet and exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. If you are obese or have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor can do blood work called liver function tests to diagnose liver disease, specific liver problems or genetic conditions.