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Fatty liver: Know it well

What is Fatty liver?

Fatty liver is when there is excess fats present in the liver. There are 2 kinds of fatty liver, namely Alcoholic fatty liver, and non alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD). The prevalence of NAFLD is increasing rapidly with the obesity and diabetes epidemic.

In Asia, the reported prevalence has been reported at 27.4%. However, in westernised Asian populations, including in Singapore, prevalence appears to be higher, with rates as high as 40% being reported.

Image source from Healthline


There are usually no symptoms. When there is, it includes:

  • Fatigue

  • Pain or discomfort in upper right abdomen

  • nausea

Risk factors and causes of NAFLD

  • Overweight or obesity

  • Insulin resistance

  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)

  • High cholesterol

  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

  • Sleep apnea

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

  • Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)

How is Fatty liver diagnosed or screened?

There are several methods your doctor might use to help diagnose/screen for fatty liver. These include:

  • Physical examination: Your doctor may palate or press on your abdomen to check for any enlargement of the liver

  • Blood tests: checking for elevated liver enzymes (ALT/AST) can determine fatty liver.

  • Imagine study: checking for excess fat requires imaging studies. Your doctor may use ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan. A test called vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE, FibroScan) may be used to check for liver stiffness.

  • Liver biopsy: determines severity of liver disease

Foods to avoid for Fatty liver

  • Alcohol: Major cause of liver disease

  • Added sugar especially high fructose corn syrup: High blood sugar increase fat build up in the liver

  • Fried foods: High in fats and calories

  • Salt/processed foods: Limit sodium to 1500mg. Excess salt make your body hold on to excess water

  • Refined carbohydrates: These raise your blood sugar, in which increases fat build up in the liver

  • Red meats: High in saturated fats

Foods to include for a healthier Liver

  • Monounsaturated fats and omega fatty acids: these fats allow your body use insulin better

  • Complex carbohydrates: prevents sugar spikes, prevents overeating

  • Antioxidants: helps in cell health

  • Garlic:

  • Soy protein: isoflavones improve insulin sensitivity

If you are overweight or obese and suffering from NAFLD, weight reduction of at least 10% can induce an improvement of 1 stage.

Speak to your Liver doctor regarding liver damage reversal and a registered nutritionist/dietitian for liver health maintenance.

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