Everything about Fatty Liver Disease

We have seen many of our patients asking us what is fatty liver after seeing their ultrasound report. This short write up in simple English will make you understand about  facts on fatty liver disease.

What is fatty liver?

In simple terms-It is a condition where the liver swells up due to fat accumulation inside it.

Why does it happen?

It can happen when the body produces more storage fats either because you eat more fat and calories than what your body needs or due to some drugs or alcohol.

Does fatty liver happen in non-alcoholic?

Fatty liver can happen in both alcoholics and non alcoholics.

When it happen in non alcoholics it is commonly called as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease ( NAFLD). But recently since 2020, the term NAFLD have been revised as Metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), as studies have shown that there are many other reasons like overweight, obesity, cholesterol, diabetes etc which can cause fatty liver.

What are the complications of having a fatty liver disease?

  1. It can progress to liver fibrosis and then to irreversible stage called liver cirrhosis
  2. Patients with fatty liver disease have higher chance of developing other diseases like- Heart attack, stroke, kidney disease.
  3. It can cause some cancers, like  colon cancers,  rectal cancers, liver cancers, breast cancer and renal cancers

What can I do to prevent / treat my fatty liver?

  1. Keep your sugars and BP under good control
  2. Reduce your weight – at least 30% weight reduction is proven to cause resolution of fatty liver
  3. Exercise of up to 30 minutes a day, atleast 5 days a week ( 150 minutes per week) of brisk walking such a way that you sweats well.
  4. Intake of coffee ( both regular coffee or decafenated coffee) 3 to 4 cups per day will reduce the severity of fatty liver disease
  5. Avoid food rich in fat/ calories like
    • canned items,
    • Red meat – beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, goat 
    • Full-fat cheese,
    • Baked foods
    • fried foods
    • Fried nonvegetarian item
    • Sugary items like candy, regular soda, and other foods with added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup

What are the non vegetarian food items that can be considered to be used in limited quantity in fatty liver disease? ( Avoid fried items)

  • Fish is a safe alternative in fatty liver disease
  • White meat like – Chicken, Turkey and duck are found harmless
  • Egg white is harmless

Is there treatment for fatty Liver disease?

  • Life style modification is the most important step
  • There are additional medicines which will support early resolution
  • In morbid obese patients’, obesity surgeries and endoscopic procedures for obesity (Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty) have proven evidence in resolution of fatty liver disease and obesity

How can I evaluate myself?

Meet your Gastroenterologist if you have any of the below mentioned risk factor for development of Fatty Liver disease.

How do I know if there is a chance that I will develop fatty liver disease?

You are at high risk to have Fatty Liver Disease :-

If you have any one of the below

  1. Diabetes
  2. Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 23 kg/m2


At least 2 among the 7

  1. Waist circumference more than 90 cm in males or more than 80 cm in females in Asian population
  2. Blood pressure more than 130/85 mm Hg
  3. Blood Triglyceride cholesterol more than 150mg/dl
  4. Blood HDL cholesterol less than 40mg/dl in men or less than 50mg/dl in females
  5. Prediabetes- ( Fasting Sugar 100 to 125mg/dl  or 2 hour after food sugars 140 to 199 or HbA1C – 5.7 to 6.4%
  6. Patients with Insulin resistance ( HOIR>2.5)
  7. Blood C Reactive protein level >2g/dl

About the author

Dr. Sanoop Kumar Sherin Sabu M.D.,
Department of Medical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
GEM Hospital Chennai

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