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Even people who eat a healthy diet can get diagnosed with fatty liver. Researchers are now investigating what is behind this.

Kassel- One in four people over 40 in Germany is affected by non-alcoholic fatty liver. In about one third of adults, the liver is enlarged due to fat storage, according to the German Liver Foundation. Also with children the fat liver becomes more and more the problem.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have now found a new sign that points to the development of fatty liver. Particularly explosive: It also occurs in people who eat an extremely healthy diet.

Fatty liver: symptoms and signs – here’s what to look out for

But what exactly is a fatty liver?? According to MSD Manual, it is "a conspicuous storage of certain fats (triglycerides) in the liver cells.". It is roughly divided into non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and alcoholic fatty liver (AFL), because heavy alcohol consumption can lead to this clinical picture, which, however, recedes comparatively quickly with abstinence. The problem with fatty liver is that it often remains asymptomatic or the symptoms are only mild and non-specific. Possible signs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slight abdominal discomfort
  • Enlarged liver can be diagnosed by a doctor

Fatty liver: serious consequences if the liver becomes fatty

As emphasized on the MSD Manual medical information portal, a distinction must be made regarding the prognosis of fatty liver. In alcohol-related disease, it regresses after about six weeks after starting abstinence. Long-term damage is still possible if consumption is prolonged. It is even more serious when the causes of fatty liver cannot be determined.

Because then the liver is seriously damaged over a longer period of time. With prolonged use of alcohol or certain medications, inflammation usually occurs first, which then leads to fibrosis and cirrhosis. If the liver is inflamed and suffers long-term damage, scars can form (fibrosis). If the scarring continues to such an extent that the structure of the liver is altered, we speak of cirrhosis, defined MSD Manual. The complications of cirrhosis kill more than 30 people a year in the U.S. alone.000 people. In addition, fatty liver can also lead to liver cancer in the long term.

Risk factors for fatty liver: Who is affected??

There are many causes of fatty liver. In addition to alcohol and certain medications such as corticosteroids, obesity may also be a cause. According to the MSD manual, toxins, metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance also play a role. Pregnancy can also be a causative factor. The combination of high body weight and insulin resistance can lead to increased fat storage in the cells of the liver. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute have now identified a further factor.

Because: Even slim, normal-weight people who eat a healthy diet can be affected by fatty liver. The researchers suspected that two specific genes might play a role. In their study, published in the journal Nature, they worked with mice, patient data, with human tissue and liver organoid cultures. The latter are special liver cells (hepatocytes) that were present in three-dimensional microstructures. They used these to study the genes and how they change. With a clear result.

Fatty liver despite healthy diet: new study provides insights

Loss or mutation of these two genes led to an accumulation of fat in the liver in healthy-fed mice, and inflammation also increased. The change in genes increased the risk of liver inflammation and fatty liver in humans. In addition, the risk of liver cancer was significantly increased.

Meritxell Huch, one of the study authors, explains in a statement from the institute: "In view of the alarming increase in fat and sugar consumption worldwide, it may be important for therapeutic measures and the management of the disease to identify those individuals who are already predisposed to it due to their genetic mutations." Further studies are needed, however, to develop drugs and therapies that can help these people, he said. (slo)

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for seeing a doctor or physician. Only experts can make the right diagnosis and initiate suitable therapy. The use of medications or supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

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