OCT 13, 2017 8:04 AM PDT

Diagnosing and Treating Fatty Livers to Prevent Disease

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The liver performs many vital metabolic functions for our bodies. It regulates the levels of sugar, fat, and protein that is released into our blood and removes toxins like ammonia from the bloodstream. It also synthesizes hormones and processes the nutrients that come from food absorbed by the intestines. It breaks down alcohol and many different drugs as well. Too much alcohol can do damage to the organ; heavy drinkers can cause a condition called fatty liver to develop, which can progress to cirrhosis.

Another problem in the liver, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), has researchers concerned. It is on the rise, although it is preventable and reversible. It is estimated that one in four people has a fatty liver. Learn more about how the disease is caused by watching the video above. If more than five percent of the cells in a person's liver contains big fat droplets, then that liver is considered fatty but can be changed back to normal with health and exercise.

NAFLD can lead to other diseases if it is not halted, such as NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). That condition is far more serious and requires invasive tests to detect. Researchers are working on creating new diagnostic tools to assess the state of the liver. There are also potential drugs to treat NASH in development, but there are no approved treatments, making prevention that much more important.
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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