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Fatty liver and obesity

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What is fatty liver?

A fatty liver means too much of fat in liver cells. If there are too much of fats in the diet than the body can handle, fatty tissues start to build up in the liver. If the fat makes up 5% of the liver, then it is known as fatty liver. Even though fatty liver is a benign condition and usually it does not result in liver damage, but fat buildup in the liver can make the liver vulnerable to other injuries. Such injuries may cause inflammation and scarring of the liver.

fatty liver

What causes fatty liver disease?

The most common cause of fatty liver is obesity. More than 75% of the obese people are at higher risk of developing a fatty liver problem. There are also at a higher risk of developing inflammation along with fatty liver.

There are some nutritional factors that can result in fatty liver disease, which include-

  • Starvation and protein malnutrition,
  • Using total parenteral nutrition for a long time. It’s a feeding procedure which infuses nutrients directly into the blood stream.
  • Intestinal bypass surgery for obesity,
  • Rapid weight loss.

There are some medical conditions that can result in fatty liver disease-

  • Diabetes mellitus,
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids in the blood),
  • Insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

Other factors that can cause fatty liver problem include-

  • Genetic factors
  • Drugs and medicines and chemicals which include alcohol, tetracycline, corticosteroids and carbon tetrachloride


An individual is called obese if the BMI is more than 30.0. BMI or Body Mass Index is a calculation which is arrived at using the height and weight of the individual.

BMI = weight in kilograms divided by (height in meters)

This is the formula used for finding out BMI. BMI reflects a healthy or unhealthy weight.

How does fat get into the liver?

The liver and other tissues metabolize the fat present in the diet. If the amount of fat fast higher than what is needed by the body, the extra fat is stored in the fatty tissue. Accumulation of fat in the liver can also happen due to transfer of fat from one part of the body to another part or if the liver is not able to transform the fat into a form in which it is eliminated from the body.

Natural evolution

The fatty liver problem is a chronic and progressive disease. Even though it is benign, it may progress to more advanced diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, fibrosis and liver cancer. That is why, it is important to undergo treatment for fatty liver. The progression of the disease may take a few years. It also depends on combinations of general and environmental factors.

Symptoms of fatty liver disease

Generally, there are no symptoms. Some of the individuals suffering from this disease may experience discomfort in the abdomen. They may also experience fatigue, feeling of unwellness and discomfort.

Diagnosis of fatty liver disease

If patients have abnormal liver test results, than fatty liver disease is suspected. In case of an enlarged liver, fatty liver may be the main cause. Ultrasound of the liver is done to find out any presence of a fatty liver. There are other diagnostic methods such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS). In some cases, it may also be necessary to go for a liver biopsy. In this process, the doctor puts a needle into the liver and collects a sample tissue which is examined under a microscope.

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