Fatty liver disease a growing problemAs the number of obese people in Korea continues to rapidly increase, the number of patients who seek treatments for damaged liver cells is rising. Oct. 20 was “liver day” in Korea.
According to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, 20 percent of Korean men in their 20s are obese, a figure that increases with age. Forty seven percent of men in their 40s and 51 percent of men in their 50s are considered obese. For women, 9 percent of those in their 20s, 26 percent of those in their 40s and 51 percent of those in their 50s are considered obese. (Korea defines obesity as a body mass index of 25 or higher. The U.S. National Institutes of Health defines a body mass index 25 to 29.9 as being overweight and of 30 or higher as obese.)
By definition, a diagnosis of fatty liver means more than 5 percent, or 75 grams, of fat has accumulated in the liver, turning it yellowish and increasing its size. Fatty liver does not pose any immediate threat but fat in liver cells slows the recovery of a liver that has been damaged by excessive drinking, infection, medicine and physical injury.
“In Japan, there was a case in which a person with fatty liver donated part of his liver and died after the transplantation surgery,” said Dr. Han Kwang-hyub, a doctor of internal medicine at Yonsei Severance Hospital in Seoul.
Fatty liver can also lead to steatohepatitis, an inflammation of the liver related to the fat accumulation. This can cause scarring and a hardening of the liver (cirrhosis), and may lead to liver cancer.
“So far, fatty liver caused by obesity is considered benign, but the number of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases recently increased and there is recognition that fatty liver needs to be treated, regardless of the cause,” Dr. Han said.
Fatty liver is not a condition in which liver cells are destroyed, and there are no symptoms. It can be identified by an ultrasonic exam.
“Obesity leads to an increase in insulin resistance, which leads to the secretion of cytokine and impairment of liver cells’ DNA. Again it results in inflammation of liver cells,” said Dr. Lee Mun-gyu, of the internal secretion department of the Samsung Medical Center.
Though obesity is the biggest cause of fatty liver, overconsumption of alcohol, diabetes, malnutrition and some medications can also cause the condition.
Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to treat fatty liver.
When people have fatty liver, they need to lose weight by eating less and exercising at least 30 minutes every day. Factors that can accelerate inflammation such as drinking, smoking and stress should be avoided. Eating green vegetables containing a lot of antioxidant enzymes also helps prevent inflammation. Recently, medicines that inhibit insulin resistance, including metformin, have also been prescribed.
Those who habitually drink are advised to refrain from drinking for at least one month. Those who have diabetes must normalize their level of blood sugar.
Screening advised if you have:
A body mass index over 25
Waste girth of more than 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) for women and 90 centimeters for men
Hyperlipidemia, an elevation of lipids including cholesterol in the bloodstream
Excessive alcohol consumption
A level of neutral fat in the blood of more than 150 milligrams/deciliter
Provided by Severance Hospital
How to Treat Fatty Liver
Maintain normal weight (a body mass index of 23 or below)
Exercise at least for 30 minutes a day
Quit smoking and drinking
Reduce your intake of fat and carbohydrates and increase your intake of protein and green vegetables
Try to reduce stress
Consult a doctor
Provided by Samsung Medical Center
by Dr. Hwang Se-hee