Fatty liver is thought to affect at least one in five adults and is now the most common chronic liver condition in Australia. It reflects a build-up of excess fat in the liver.
In the past, alcohol was the key factor in fatty liver but obesity and diabetes are now the major causes of this problem. Fatty liver is most common in overweight middle-aged people but it is being increasingly seen in younger age groups.
It used to be thought that fatty liver was harmless because most cases are mild and cause no problems. However, we now know that in some cases it can lead to hepatitis (inflammation), cirrhosis (scarring) and liver failure.
How is it diagnosed?
Fatty liver can cause fatigue and abdominal discomfort but usually there are no symptoms. It is generally first detected on routine blood tests (‘liver function tests’) and is confirmed with an ultrasound or CT scan.
Occasionally a liver biopsy is required – a sample of liver tissue is removed with a fine needle and examined under the microscope.
How is fatty liver treated?
Fatty liver may be improved with a healthy lifestyle: a healthy diet, gradual weight loss, daily exercise, diabetes control, no alcohol and avoiding drugs that may damage the liver.
However, the best advice is to try to prevent the condition by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding excessive alcohol.
Liver cleansing diets claim to release toxins clogging the liver. They usually consist of an eating plan with tonics or supplements.
However, there is no scientific evidence that any of these treatments benefit the liver any more than a healthy diet. The body naturally removes toxins and it doesn’t need any help from expensive supplements.
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.