More than one in three adults are living with a deadly liver disorder dubbed “human foie gras,” according to new research.
Known as MAFLD (metabolic associated fatty liver disease), it is caused by consuming too much fast food and fizzy drinks.
The life-threatening condition results in inflammation, scarring and even organ failure. Cases have more than doubled in 30 years.
First author Dr. Magda Shaheen said: “The percent of people with MAFLD increased from 16% in 1988 to 37% in 2018 – a 131% increase.”
It is being fuelled by the obesity crisis. MAFLD occurs in much the same way as a goose liver is fattened for foie gras production.
About 100 million individuals in the U.S. are estimated to have it, says the American Liver Foundation.
Lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of treatment. These include cutting down on processed meats, pizza, cakes, confectionery and eating more fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains.
A Mediterranean-style diet and avoiding alcohol are recommended.
As people pile on the pounds, they are being diagnosed with the often symptomless disorder at a much younger age.
Rather than being in their 60s or 70s, they are still in their 30s or 40s. Worryingly, many are only slightly overweight.
Previously known as NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), it is fast becoming the most common indication for liver transplantation.
Co-author Dr. Theodore Friedman said: “Overall, the increase in MAFLD is concerning, as this condition can lead to liver failure and cardiovascular diseases and has an important health disparity.”
Hispanics are even more prone than black and whites – which he described as “a public health concern.”
The team at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, Calif., analyzed three decades of data on 32,726 people in the US taking part in a national health survey.
Dr. Friedman said: “We found that overall, both MAFLD and obesity increased with time, with the increase in MAFLD greater than the increase in obesity.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in patients with MAFLD. The illnesses share similar risk factors such as elevated glucose and blood fats and high blood pressure.
Maintaining healthy body weight, exercising regularly, eating heart-healthy foods diet and managing conditions such as type 2 diabetes protect against it.
Added Dr. Shaheen: “The prevalence of MAFLD increased faster than the prevalence of obesity, suggesting that the increase in the other risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension may also contribute to the increase in the prevalence of MAFLD.
“In summary, MAFLD is increasing with time and more efforts are needed to control this epidemic.”
A specialized ultrasound scan that measures liver elasticity, fat and stiffness in the liver can detect it.
Liver biopsy is the definitive test for advanced disease – but it is invasive and expensive.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager