Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which, at its nastiest, can lead to liver cancer and liver failure - often with little warning. Your liver's worst enemies used to be too many alcoholic drinks or infection by hep B or C.
Now that honour goes to belly fat which, in turn, can cause fat to build up in liver cells, increasing the risk of serious liver damage.
According to researchers, more people will have liver cirrhosis caused by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than with hepatitis C and hepatitis B combined by the year 2020.
The Gastroenterological Society of Australia say that unless we start to eat a healthier diet, more than 7 million Australians will have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by 2030 and about 5 per cent of them will have developed cirrhosis.
People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease - now - also have a threefold risk of type 2 diabetes and double the risk of heart disease.
So why do we keep ignoring something so potentially scary and life threatening?
Because it's invisible – often there is no symptoms until it's advanced and no simple test that can spot the early signs.
Ultrasound can detect fatty liver, but it can miss up to 40 per cent of cases. Conventional ultrasound is also poor at detecting scarring on the liver.
Losing weight around the middle and eating healthier food is the only way to reverse or reduce it. Too many refined carbohydrates and sugars in the diet are helping drive non-alcoholic fatty liver disease because they can be converted to fat in the liver and induce inflammation and insulin resistance, which is the precursor to diabetes.
If we can stave off fatty liver disease, not only will our livers thank us, but we also reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Recent research found evidence that fasting might improve fatty liver disease. A study found that restricting eating (but not kilojoules) to just an eight-hour period between noon and 8pm improved markers of fatty liver disease and reduced abdominal fat.
So, what is it about fasting that might do the liver some good?
It could have something to do with reducing the amount of snacking throughout the day. Eating causes us to release inflammatory chemicals into the blood stream so it may be that grazing causes low-grade inflammation - or it may be that our snacks are often refined carbohydrates.
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