Double trouble! Research shows that liver diseases and obesity are interlinked
The major news about liver diseases and obesity being interlinked creates a dangerous double trouble. Even with the major breakthrough in fighting hepatitis C and other chronic liver conditions, public health officials are now struggling under the weight of a growing epidemic of liver disease interlinked with obesity.
The past two decades have seen a rise of ‘Nonalcoholic fatty liver’ at an alarming rate as it has doubled in teenagers and adolescents. Studies based on federal surveys and diagnostic testing show that it occurs in about 10 percent of children and at least 20 percent of the adult population in the United States. Another prominent issue is that there are no drugs to cure this ailment.
1 The big fat disease that has no cure
Nonalcoholic fatty liver has become a difficult disease to battle, with the combination of lethal weapon of liver diseases and obesity together. Doctors explain the working of the disease as stated below.
The disease causes the liver to swell with fat;what is striking is that it is almost identical to the liver damage that is mostly seen in heavy drinkers. Here, the damage is done by poor diet, obesity and alcohol. According to Dr. Joel E. Lavine, the Chief of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, “The equivalent of this is foiegras, you have to force feed ducks to get fatty liver, but people seem to be able to develop it on their own.”
2 The only treatment available at the moment
Gavin Owenby, a 13-year-old in Hiawassee, Georgia, found out about his disease after developing crippling abdominal pain. The doctor had to resort to ask him to exercise and change his diet as there was no medication to fall back on.”They told me to stay away from sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables,” Gavin said.
Doctors find it extremely difficult to both diagnose the disease and to offer asolid medication to tackle the problem at hand. Most people have a mild form of the disease with no obvious symptoms. This is worrisome as nonalcoholic fatty liver poses a severe risk to type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
In severe cases, the fat that infiltrates the liver causes inflammation and scarring, which eventually shuts down the organ. This can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer and ultimately liver failure. Studies testify that 5 million Americans have this more progressive form of the disease, known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.
3 NASH increases the need for liver transplants
Almost three decades ago, doctors didn’t even have a name for NASH as the case was so rare. But now, NASH is the biggest cause that has increased the need for liver transplant.
A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that the transplants performed because of NASH had increased to 10% by 2009, which was a mere 1% in 2001. The researchers predict that NASH will surpass Hepatitis C and chronic liver diseases as a cause for liver transplants by 2020.
Even though the problem of a fatty liver can be faced by people of all races and ethnicities,it is more common among Hispanics as they carry a gene called PNPLA3, which forces the liver to aggressively produce and store a type of fat called triglycerides.
4 Pharmaceuticals rush to invent a medication
With NASH on a recluse rise, pharmaceuticals were rushing to invent a medication to treat the deadly disease. Two companies came close to breakthrough. Firstly, Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a small biotechnology firm, gave out a statement that its clinical trial of obeticholic acid could successfully treat NASH.
Secondly, Galectin Therapeutics, another company was granted a special fast-track designation by the Food and Drug Administration to speed its development of GR-MD-02, a drug that could possibly reverse some of the more advanced symptoms of the disease.
But, doctors predict that it could take a while to come up with a concrete solution for NASH. The disease is pretty complicated, and doctors haven’t been able to understand the complete mechanics of it yet.
Even people as young as 20 years of age are suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver, which was unheard of. Earlier, researchers predicted that it was difficult to reverse the fatty liver due to a person’s inability to retain insulin, but that theory was wronged. Also, people who were on the lower index of body mass like Asians were also prone to the curse of fatty liver.
The connection between liver diseases and obesity should not be ignored. To avoid NASH, one must maintain a healthy lifestyle of balanced meals and plenty of exercise.