Often, NAFLD has no symptoms, at least at first
The fact that many people with NAFLD show no symptoms and suffer no apparent damage, at least initially, may explain our lack of awareness about the disease.
But just as high blood pressure can be a hidden risk factor for heart disease, NAFLD is the silent precursor to serious complications, including a form of hepatitis called NASH, and inflammation and liver injury that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Cardiovascular-related risk factors
NAFLD afflicts nearly one out of three U.S. adults and is closely associated with commonly recognized cardiometabolic risk factors, including obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and glucose intolerance.
But exactly what causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease remains uncertain. Current studies are preliminary.
Scientists, however, have strong suspicions. For example, in a recent review in Practical Gastroenterology, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center concluded that it is highly likely that just as lifestyle-related factors like obesity and high cholesterol cause heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions, they may well cause NAFLD.
Foods that promote liver health
Researchers suspect, too, that the same food and fitness programs that reduce cardiovascular risk may reduce NAFLD risk, NASH, and the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The dietary focus, scientists say, should be on whole or minimally processed foods that are naturally high in nutrients and naturally low in fat, salt, and sugar, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans).
In a recent issue of Today’s Dietician, Erin McCarthy, MS, RD, CSSD, concludes, “No specific medications are approved for treating NAFLD. The current standard of care for treating patients with NAFLD focuses on lifestyle interventions, particularly diet and exercise.”
“We see many people with NAFLD improve tremendously”
At the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, which has been helping people shed weight and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease for the past four decades, “we see many people with NAFLD improve tremendously,” notes Danine Fruge, MD, Associate Medical Director at Pritikin.
“Right along with reversal of metabolic problems like pre-diabetes, they’re seeing reversal of NAFLD.”
Exercise, Diet and Liver Health
Enjoying at least 150 minutes a week can cut liver enzyme levels, shed belly fat, improve LDL cholesterol levels, and improve insulin resistance. Exercise and Diet Can Help Control NAFLD
“You are helping both your heart and liver.”
If all these foods that promote liver health, plus recommendations for daily fitness, sound very similar to the Pritikin Program for heart health, they are.
So as you faithfully live the Pritikin lifestyle, “you should feel doubly good,” sums up Dr. Fruge. “You are helping both your heart and liver, and they, in turn, are helping each other help you live long and well.”