Understanding Fatty Liver Disease As A Coming Epidemic

2011-12-02 | |
Last updated: 2011-12-02

Despite being the largest internal organ in the body and of critical importance to our survival, most people are unaware of what role the liver actually serves. Sure we know that it is involved in breaking down alcohol and that alcoholism can cause liver damage, but that is only one area of health involving the liver. The liver is actually a very versatile organ with numerous responsibilities. The tasks the liver performs are as varied as removing toxins, creating and destroying numerous chemicals used in the body as well as storing vitamins, minerals, blood sugar, and fats for later use.

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

When the liver is unsuccessful in storing and supplying blood sugar properly, a condition called Fatty Liver Disease can result. Under normal conditions, the liver stores blood sugar by converting it to a more easily handled chemical that is similar in nature to plant starch. This chemical is stored within specific cells of the liver. However, in certain situations, such as when too much blood sugar needs to be stored, the liver will instead convert the blood sugar to fat for added storage efficiency. Most of this fat is sent to the bloodstream to be stored in the body, but some of this fat remains within the cells of the liver.

As we all know, getting rid of fat is relatively difficult so this fat contained within the liver cells tends to stay around. Worse still, according to 2011 research from Yale University, is that the added liver fat starts to interfere with insulin. When working properly, insulin causes fat to be turned back into blood sugar, but when the excess fat is present, we develop insulin resistance. Insulin resistance then makes it easier to accumulate fat in the liver and rest of the body. Together this creates a vicious cycle.

Over time as this fat continues to accumulate in the liver cells, it even starts to affect the ability of liver cells to contain their contents. In severe cases of fatty liver disease, the liver cells even begin to swell and leak. This, according to the University of Alberta, causes inflammation as the immune system becomes active. This constant inflammation ultimately leads to scarring of the liver in what is called cirrhosis. Accumulated scarring can eventually cause the liver to fail.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, General Health

Comments (2)

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  1. Rapanuchi says:

    Sir, I just began taking Sorafenib. It has been prescribed by the VA for liver cancer. This Monday next, it will be 2 weeks. I seem to be managing most of the side effects fairly well so far. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I completed my third consecutive 26 mi. marathon in Jan, ’08. However, I am extremely tired and run down. I work for Walgreens and have some disability time I can use. I am wondering if I should use another 4 weeks to let my body totally adjust to the medication before returning to work. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thank you. Jim R.

  2. admin says:

    I am sorry that I don’t have the specific medical knowledge to advise you on the use of the medication or the time needed to return to work. This is knowledge best sought from a medical professional.