Are fatty liver and diabetes correlated? Everything you need to know

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Diabetes Mellitus are serious health ailments requiring immediate intervention and these diseases are found to exist mutually in many individuals. Time and again, it has been found through studies that NAFLD is more prevalent among people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But how does that happen?

NAFLD: causes, symptoms, and effects           

While discussing liver diseases, the consumption of alcohol is always the first thing that comes to mind. But there exists another type of liver disease caused due to reasons other than alcohol called the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

When the liver gets deposited with a fat content of more than 5 to 10% of its weight, it is called a fatty liver. This is typically characterised by an increase in the size of the liver. NAFLD is becoming increasingly common on a global scale, with individuals consuming more processed foods and lack of physical exercise. It might also be caused due to certain types of medicines, liver infections, and exposure to toxins.

Simple NAFLD does not exhibit any symptoms and is typically found during an ultrasound or MRI scan. Doctors also suggest blood tests such as liver function tests & blood count tests to assess the liver damage and start medication if required.

Fatty liver is not inherently harmful. But if left untreated, it can lead to a more dangerous liver disease called Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis (NASH). When fat keeps building up in the liver, it can lead to inflammation and damage. Sometimes, it can result in liver cirrhosis and may require a liver transplant surgery

Diabetes Mellitus (DM): Causes, Symptoms, and Effects

DM is a group of diseases that result in excess sugar in the body. There are four types: type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes. While the latter two can be reversed, type 1 & type 2 diabetes can lead to other serious health problems.

Diabetes is predominantly caused due to excess carbohydrate consumption and the common symptoms might vary. The most prevalent symptoms are: feeling thirsty, urinating often, weight loss, fatigue, infections, and slow-healing wounds.

When not treated with appropriate medication, diabetes can lead to heart, kidney, eye, and nerve issues and may even cause Alzheimer’s and depression.

What is the connection between NAFLD and DM?

The most common relationship between NAFLD and DM is obesity. Both these diseases are attributed to physical inactivity, high-fat & high-carb foods, and being overweight.

The effect goes two ways. Many large-scale studies show that individuals with persistent or recurring NAFLD have a higher risk of developing DM type 2. An elevation in the liver enzyme levels is found to increase the risk of developing the disease.

Conversely, studies have shown that type 2 diabetes is a key indicator of NAFLD progression to NASH. It is also found to increase the risk of liver cancer.

One research at IIT-Mandi has discovered that a calcium-binding protein called S100A6, released from fatty liver, adversely affects the insulin secretion ability of beta cells in the pancreas. This indicates that fatty liver can cause or worsen diabetes mellitus type 2.

 While not much is known about how exactly fatty liver leads to diabetes or vice versa, the strong correlation between the two diseases has been established in several studies. Upon early detection of fatty liver, lifestyle changes, dietary switches, and reducing alcohol consumption are found to minimise associated risks substantially. In order to prevent diabetes mellitus type 2 and NAFLD, consult with a nutritionist and follow a strict diet. You can also find help with these problems by searching for hepatologist near me on Google, since doctors who specialize in liver problems will be able to handle them.

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