Type 2 diabetes and obesity epidemic cause increase in NAFLD rates

Unless efforts are made to reduce the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity, the rates of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, will soon reach epidemic proportions, according to a new study recently presented at the International Liver Conference.

The study showed that dramatic rises in obesity and type 2 diabetes are driving increases in the once rare liver condition. Judging by current trends, researchers from the European Association for the Study of the Liver projected that 50 percent of U.S. adults could have NAFLD by the year 2030.

NAFLD is characterized by fatty deposits in the cells of the liver. This can cause scarring and other damage to the organ. This type of damage was formerly confined mostly to heavy drinkers. However, as the obesity epidemic has continued, doctors are noticing the condition in increasing numbers of non-drinking patients.

For the study, researchers examined 10 years' worth of survey data collected from 39,500 adults. During the course of the study period, which ended in 2008, the prevalence of NAFLD doubled. Furthermore, the percentage of chronic liver disease cases that resulted from NAFLD went from less than 50 percent to over 75 percent.

"Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is fast becoming one of the top concerns for clinicians due to the obesity epidemic and its potential to progress to advanced liver disease, which significantly impacts on overall liver-related mortality. This data highlights a serious concern for the future, and the enormous increasing health burden of NAFLD," said Mark Thurz, vice secretary of the research group.

This type of liver condition is extremely common in individuals who have poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. While there are no treatments for the condition, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends prevention.
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