Avoid Visceral Fatty Liver

Don’t squeeze it out of sight and mind.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH The elastic corsets known as Spanx have become the undergarment of choice for concealing unsightly bulges. Some celebrities even flaunt them publically. The favorable attention has catapulted the miracle fabric into mainstream popularity. But Spanx is not a cure for obesity.

An obesity epidemic has made fatty liver disease (steatosis) common particularly among middle aged Americans, though it may also affect children and young adults. There are two categories: Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Major risk factors include obesity and type 2 diabetes, heredity, and overconsumption of alcohol. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits may also lead to NAFLD. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are common among those with liver diseases. However, some people develop NAFLD even if they do not have any risk factors. NAFLD affects up to 25% of people in the United States. Untreated NAFLD can progress to a more severe form called Non-Alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), with potential for cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Cirrhotic and fatty livers with cysts.

As the name implies, fatty liver disease is a result of too much visceral fat stored within the liver. (Other organs like your pancreas and intestines may accumulate visceral fat.) Generally a benign condition, it usually causes no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Too much visceral fat can interfere with how your liver functions and interrupt normal hormonal communications between vital organs. This can lead to insulin resistance (the beginning of diabetes), high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and a higher risk for developing heart disease. Bending forward can feel like your abdomen is full of bubblewrap.

In a minority of patients, fatty liver disease may progress to liver failure (cirrhosis). A cirrhotic liver can become virtually as dry as overcooked meat with impaired function. Most cysts are found incidentally, on imaging studies ordered for other reasons altogether.

Liver cysts (hepatic cysts), detected in 4–7% of the population can be asymptomatic with just a few, requiring no treatment. When numerous or very large they can cause pain or discomfort in the upper right abdominal region. Patients with hydatid cysts should be treated to prevent complications related to cyst growth and rupture. Simply removing the fluid from the cyst with a needle is not effective because the cyst fills up again within several days. The best treatment is to remove a large portion of the cyst wall.

Avoid Visceral Fatty Liver
Gross natural color external view of multiple cysts (Peter Anderson DVM PhD)

The consumption of soft drinks can increase the prevalence of NAFLD independently of metabolic syndrome. During regular soft drinks consumption, fat accumulates in the liver by the primary effect of fructose, which increases lipogenesis, and in the case of diet soft drinks, by the additional contribution of aspartame sweetener and caramel colorant that are rich in advanced glycation end products that potentially increase insulin resistance and inflammation. Fortunately, this dangerous visceral fat may be somewhat easy to lose if you eat well, rest regularly and exercise for 35 to 60 minutes daily.

When alcohol is the cause, and AFLD is discovered early, abstinence can reverse some of the effects. If you have been drinking more than 60 grams (2 ounces) of alcohol per day for a while, chances are you already have alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Avoid Visceral Fatty Liver
Hypoechoic and hyperechoic — if numerous likely to be metastases. Anechoic lesions are hepatic cysts or cystic lesions.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a potentially serious form of NAFLD, is marked by liver inflammation or swelling which may progress to scarring and irreversible damage. There are no medical treatments yet for NAFLD. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may help prevent liver damage from starting or reverse it in the early stages. Fatty liver can be detected with blood tests confirmed by ultrasound. For an informal online analysis, visit Fatty-liver.com. A poster detailing the function of the liver is available in our online store.

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Tags: internal organs, overweight, radiology

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  14. Spanx® is a registered trademark of Spanx, Inc.
  15. Cirrhotic and fatty livers illustration ©2017 Kevin RR Williams.