How Does Obesity Cause Fatty Liver Disease? Causes, Symptoms, and Effects: A Guide

Bad metabolic health is related to an elevated risk of diabetes and heart disease. An individual with correct levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, HDL & LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure is said to have a healthy metabolism.

One of the most common causes for metabolic ill health on these grounds is being overweight or obese. Multiple studies have confirmed a strong correlation between obesity and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and why is it dangerous?

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is diagnosed when the fat tissue in the liver is greater than 5% of its weight in an individual who is not a regular consumer of alcohol or drugs. This disease occurs when the liver cannot break down fats, causing them to accumulate in the organ.

NAFLD is dangerous, left untreated because it can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver failure. It is called a silent disease as there will be no explicit symptoms for many years, but when worsened, it causes pain in the abdomen region, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty with eating food, etc.

The common risk factors of NAFLD include a high-fat, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activities, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome. These issues are closely associated with overweight or obesity. Therefore, for treating NAFLD, it is usually recommended to make changes to the diet and reduce weight.

How does obesity cause fatty liver disease?

While the exact cause of how NAFLD is caused by high fat in the body is unknown, obesity has been repeatedly found to have an impact on the severity of fatty liver disease.

The human body has two types of adipose tissues that commonly store excess fat: the subcutaneous adipose tissues (SAT) and the visceral adipose tissues (VAT). The SAT has the capacity to expand for storing fat. But this fat storage capacity can become impaired in individuals with Insulin resistance (IR) or metabolic syndrome. This increases the influx of free fatty acids to the liver, increasing insulin production and causing Hepatic insulin resistance. Through multiple processes, the glucagon resistance in the liver also causes damage to the pancreas and can result in inducing type 2 diabetes.

The additionally deposited triglycerides and toxic metabolites lead to malfunction of the liver and cause damage to the organ’s muscles. A cyclic process is also found to be established wherein; the liver damage caused due to insulin resistance can, in turn, lead to more IR. This can again contribute to hypertension.

Obesity can cause an array of problems in the human body, starting from Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. If NAFLD is identified, immediate treatment can help prevent the different issues resulting from it and reduce the probability of severe diseases.

How to treat the fatty liver disease if you are obese?

The most common recommendation by studies and doctors across the globe is to pay careful attention to body mass index (BMI). If an individual is obese (BMI > 25, <35), losing 7 to 10% of their weight is the best treatment for reversing NAFLD. For patients with BMI > 35.0, bariatric (weight loss) surgery is generally prescribed for treating fatty liver disease and other comorbidities.

The liver is the most critical organ of the human body, and it is vital to pay attention to its health. Individuals with a higher BMI and considered obese are recommended to check for fatty liver as soon as possible and make necessary lifestyle & dietary changes to prevent fatty liver disease or liver failure.

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