Nettavisen: Increases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. At worst, inflammation of the liver and cancer. Most people have no symptoms.
Despite a rather scary name, there are relatively few who have ever heard of "fatty liver". And there is little information about the disease online.
At the same time, we see an increasing prevalence of fatty liver in the US and Europe. Here again, the trend is increasing, and now the Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey (HUNT3) shows that one in three Norwegians has the so-called "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease," writes Gemini.
"What we know for sure is that the incidence of hepatic steatosis is increasing and that it is closely related to the overgrowth epidemic," says consultant and researcher Mette Vesterhus to Nettavisen.
She specializes in digestive disorders at Haraldsplass Diakonale Hospital.
Most people do not have symptoms
Firstly, what is fatty liver?
There are two fatty liver diseases: fatty liver caused by alcohol abuse and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is the type we refer to in this article.
The fatty liver is a condition, as the name implies, where fat is accumulated in the liver. Most cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease come from obesity or in connection with type 2 diabetes.
– We call it fatty liver when there is more than five percent fat in the liver. This is usually tested by ultrasound, so it is seen that the liver is lighter than normal. You can also test the fatty liver by doing a blood test, says Vesterhus, who is the head of the Norwegian Gastroenterological Association.
Usually, you will not have symptoms of fatty liver.
– Most people with hepatic steatosis live well with this, but it indicates an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
– Fatty liver is associated with fat in other parts of the body, and is part of what we call the "metabolic syndrome" along with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, says Vesterhus, and continues:
– This all goes together, but it is usually heart disease or stroke patients with fatty liver die. However, fatty liver can be a warning that one should change lifestyle to avoid this risk. It is very rare for people with normal weight to have fatty liver, so they must be very unhappy with their genes, says Vesterhus.
However, there are some who develop serious diseases due to fatty liver.
– In some people, the accumulation of fat leads to inflammation of the liver, which in turn can lead to scarring and cirrhosis and, in the worst case, to liver transplantation. A very small proportion can also develop liver cancer as a result of fatty liver. So there's a reason to have control over their lifestyle, if you can prove fatty liver, says Vesterhus.
SUPERVISION: Mette Vesterhus is head of the Norwegian Gastroenterological Society and researcher at the University of Bergen. Advertisement ad feedback
Liver transplantation and liver cancer
The latest figures that Vesterhus may refer to show the following:
20-30 percent of the European population has fatty liver. Of these, about three percent begin inflammation of the liver and 0.2-0.5 percent have liver cancer.
However, it amounts to vertiginous 200-500,000 people in the EU who are believed to develop liver cancer because of their fatty liver.
In the United States, fatty liver disease is the third most common cause of liver transplantation. The British newspaper The Guardian wrote in 2015 that one-third of British adults have fatty liver and British experts believe that most liver transplants in the UK in 2020 will be the result of fatty liver disease, Vesterhus says.
In Norway, we are a bit behind the US and UK, but the trend is the same.
– We had patients in Norway who had to undergo liver transplantation as a result of fatty liver disease, says Vesterhus.
With the sneakers
The positive news is that it is possible to get rid of fatty liver – all on its own. Good fitness is the best remedy for fatty liver.
A new study, conducted by researchers at the Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at NTNU and the University of Queensland in Australia, concludes with the following:
People with poor fitness have multiplied the likelihood of having fatty liver.
Previously, research has shown that sedation increases the risk of hepatic steatosis, but the study shows that the level of physical fitness is the most important factor.
– Even people who sit a little quiet during the day have markedly increased the incidence of hepatic steatosis if they are in poor condition, says Ilaria Croc, a postdoctoral fellow at NTNU, for Gemini.
In the study, researchers followed 16,000 people in Nord-Trøndelag. All of them tested oxygen uptake early in the study, as well as
blood tests and body composition tests. Among them, there were 36 percent, or about 5,600 participants, who had fatty liver.
These 5,600 people were followed up for nine years, and it was discovered that the risk of dying increased more than 50% to the fifth who had estimated the worst condition.
You should be sweaty and breathless.
Only one in three Norwegians complies with the Norwegian Health Directorate's recommendation on physical activity, which is just over 20 minutes of moderate activity per day.
The recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, ie slightly more than 20 minutes daily or 75 minutes of high intensity.
The NTNU study, however, shows that it does not exercise moderately for 150 minutes per week if the goal is to protect the fatty liver.
– However, a good deal does not get better if they only exercise with moderate intensity. The high-intensity exercise greatly improves fitness, and my desire is therefore to exercise regularly with such tension that you become sweaty and breathless, says Croci to Gemini.
The Health Board also writes that you should train more, or more, if you want to achieve even better health:
"For additional health benefits, adults and the elderly should have 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or up to 150 minutes of high intensity," says the Health Directorate.
Senior Vesterhus is not surprised by the results of the NTNU study.
– We say that it is necessary to carry out a weight reduction of ten percent to get rid of fatty liver, and that you get by exercising more and eating healthier. Exercise is particularly important here because we know that exercise helps even when weight reduction of ten percent is not fully achieved, says Vesterhus, and continues:
– This is probably because exercise affects both the composition of cholesterol in the blood and the sensitivity of the body to insulin. Thus, the study confirms what we already know, that is, that exercise is the best remedy for fatty liver.
It's more you train, it's better health
This exercise and activity are good for health is indisputable.
But a growing number of studies shows that one should become properly sweaty and out of breath in order to reap some additional health benefits.
A study by the NTNU in the fall of 2018 showed that fitness can halve the risk of heart attack.
The study, however, shows that even a slight increase in physical fitness will have great health benefits, but health is better the harder and more often you train.
The study confirmed the result of an American study that simply concluded the following: its best form, its longer life. The less you exercise, the greater the chance of premature death.
Cardiologist Wael Jaber of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio compared poor physical condition with other risk factors such as smoking and obesity.
– Being without training should be seen as an equally strong risk factor, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking – if not stronger than all. It should almost be treated as a disease that can be prescribed – and that prescription is the training.
In October 2018, Wael Jaber published a published published study correlating cardiorespiratory exercise and early death.
Here again, the researchers concluded the following: It's more you exercise, your longer, healthier life. The less you exercise, the greater the chance of premature death.
If you want to get a good indicator of your own fitness level, you can use the Condenser calculator.
Alternatively, you can perform some of the tests described in this article: How to find out how good your fitness is.