Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a very common type of liver disease that is specifically not linked to drinking alcohol. A study’s results were released at the 2014 Digestive Disease Week meeting that showed through a study of 160 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The study tracked the process of these individuals having weight loss surgery to see the impact weight loss surgery had on improving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The study showed results of curing liver disease faster than the common treatment options. It also helped with other conditions as a result of the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, such as fibrosis, steatohepatitis, chronic portal inflammation, lobular inflammation, and steatosis.
What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), or Metabolic (dysfunction) Associated Fatty Liver Disease (MAFLD), most importantly affects the liver. The liver is one of the biggest organs in the body. It is located under the right ribcage and typically weighs a few pounds for adults, shaped like a football. The liver is responsible for sending essential nutrients and energy throughout the body through food and drink sources, as well as helping to clean out bad substances from the body. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by fat in the liver cells being built-up when not related to alcohol consumption. In a fatty liver, more than ten percent of the liver’s weight is due to fat.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is most common in people who have a BMI of 35 or more, and with conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol. While it is also linked to obesity, rapid weight loss and bad eating habits can also cause NAFLD, which is why researchers were so surprised by the results of patients undergoing weight loss surgery who ended up finding relief for the liver disease.
Signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, poor appetite, and skin or eyes that are turning a yellow color. It is typically diagnosed through a blood test that shows high liver enzyme counts in the blood. Imaging tests are sometimes used to help confirm the diagnosis. Following a healthy diet and exercise routine, trying to lose weight, getting your cholesterol level in check, and avoiding alcohol are all common treatment options for NAFLD.
The Link Between Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Obesity
The National Institutes of Health found a persistent link between weight loss and helping to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Since NAFLD is one of the most common liver diseases in the world, they wanted to see how much obesity and weight loss affected those with the disease. The study looked at the different treatment options that were often used for patients with the disease but showed a big difference in patients that lost weight. They found that weight loss through bariatric surgery, in particular, helped with inflammatory issues with the disease and contribute to improving the metabolic rate of the patients.
The study found that about a year after losing about 10 percent of their body weight, this group of patients who lost weight saw significant improvements in their liver disease, including helping many of the side effects associated with it. It should be noted, however, that not everyone with NAFLD has trouble with obesity. They looked at obese patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who then lost weight and saw improvement in their condition. Patients with NAFLD who are not overweight will not see improvement by losing some of their weight.
Study on Weight Loss Surgery for NAFLD Patients
Another study that was performed on patients who went through weight loss surgery after being diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was released at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in 2014 and conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida, Tampa. This study included 160 patients who had NAFLD and related diseases like chronic portal inflammation and fibrosis. Michel Murr, MD, a senior investigator for the study, spoke at the meeting and talked about how surprised researchers were at the improvement following bariatric surgery. Based on the findings of the study, they believe anyone who has NAFLD and a BMI of 35-40 should consider getting weight loss surgery to help alongside their other medical treatments. Among participants of the study, 82 percent of them were women, and the average age was 46 years at the first biopsy.
What Were the Results?
After the study, they noticed improved or resolved fibrosis of grades 2 and 3 in over half of the patients. They also found that 1 of 3 patients with preoperative cirrhosis also had improvement after weight loss surgery. Through their findings, they found these types of numbers across the board, with some patients finding relief from nearly every condition related to their non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. They also looked at patients not yet diagnosed with NAFLD who had a BMI of 40 or more, seeing that most patients within this range of morbid or severe obesity had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease even if they didn’t know it.
It is important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. If you have a BMI of 40 or more, get tested for this disease. NAFLD can affect your blood pressure, cholesterol, increase your risk for diabetes and sleep apnea, and even cause more severe conditions. If you find that you have the disease, talk to your doctor about the benefits of weight loss and whether or not weight loss surgery is right for you. The surgery itself should not be considered a cure or your only treatment plan, but the resulting weight loss can be highly valuable in treating your disease.
Weight Loss Surgery for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Take your time in looking for a surgeon to perform the weight loss surgery, going through the proper steps to get your body and mind ready for this type of surgery. It is not something to rush into but requires very careful planning and a long-term commitment to eating right and exercising. Not only are you watching your portion sizes, but also need to be very careful of the types of foods you eat after surgery. Discuss the possibility of getting gastric bypass or other forms of bariatric surgery to help improve your NAFLD.