Fatty Liver Disease. It’s not just from Alcohol.

The liver, located on the upper-right side of the abdomen, is the largest internal organ of the human body. The main functions of the liver are to remove toxins and process food nutrients. Blood from the digestive system filters through the liver before traveling anywhere else in the body.

A meta-analysis was released in May of this year explored non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in adults. The goal of analysis was to ascertain the contribution of ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption to the risk of developing NAFLD.

NAFLD represents a disease spectrum ranging from liver fat accumulation through to end-stage liver disease with fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. NAFLD is associated with related diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity. There is strong evidence that NAFLD is associated with an approximate twofold higher risk of developing T2D, irrespective of obesity and other common metabolic risk factors.

NAFLD is similar to a type of liver disease caused by alcohol consumption. Most people may not know they have it because doctors don't routinely screen for it and it can develop without symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, when liver damage occurs.

NAFLD was recognized in the early 1950s but only in 1980 was it pointed out as a possible cause of cirrhosis of the liver.

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are industrial formulations of cheap ingredients from high yield crops (such as refined sugar, starch, oil, protein isolates) and remnants of intense animal agriculture that are highly energy-dense due to total fat, saturated fat and trans-fat contributions, combined with low fiber and poor micronutrient profiles.

They can be differentiated from processed foods due to additional chemical enhancement using preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners aiming to increase shelf life and palatability. They include such food items as confectionary sweets, high-sugar drinks and ‘microwave ready-meals’, constituting around half of daily energy intake in Western populations. Their cheap production cost, contrasting with the higher relative cost of minimally processed foods, drives a high UPF consumption rate globally; particularly in low-income households.

In this meta-analysis, a total of 5454 records were screened, and 112 records underwent full text review. From these, 9 studies analyzing 60,961 individuals were included in the meta-anaylsis.

A factor that the researchers came across was that the manufacturing process behind UPFs is metabolically damaging to the food as well. Through chemical modification, cosmetic additives and artificial packaging. Common cosmetic additives to UPF, such as monosodium glutamate and artificial sweeteners, have been associated with NAFLD.

They also discovered that timing of eating impacts metabolic outcomes. with high consumption of low-quality carbohydrates, such as those found in UPFs, being more harmful when consumed during evening meals.

NASH (or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) is a type of NAFLD that can damage the liver. NASH occurs when the fat buildup in the liver leads to inflammation (hepatitis) and scarring.


Both moderate (vs. low) and high (vs. low) intake of UPF significantly increased the risk of NAFLD. Consumption of UPF is associated with NAFLD with a dose–response effect.

These results provide valuable evidence to support public health policies in respect to dietary advice in this increasingly prevalent disease. We would advocate global efforts to minimize consumption of UPFs, in exchange for fresh and minimally processed foods, with promotion of physical activity to tackle the societal burden of this disease.

In its early stages, NAFLD generally does not cause symptoms. In fact, many people—and their doctors—are unaware they have NAFLD. However, it can lead to liver damage over time in some people.

Fortunately, screening techniques such as blood levels of liver enzymes, ultrasound, and imaging techniques for assessing liver stiffness can help detect NAFLD, and the condition can often be reversed in its early stages with dietary and lifestyle changes.

About 100 million individuals in the United States are estimated to have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD in children has more than doubled over the past 20 years!

Bottom line – cut out processed foods! Don’t be lazy and eat whatever you can find in a pinch or is simple. Your body and long-term health are worth you taking the time to eat real food (meat, fish, vegetables and fruits).

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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,

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