Currently, fizzy drinks are one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world due to huge advertising and society’s ignorance of some of their effects on the body. It has been observed that their consumption starts at a very young age and increases over the years. Its excessive consumption, when it should be sporadic or occasional, can be harmful due to its nutritional composition and because in many cases it often replaces other necessary foods in the diet that provide us with essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibre, etc.).
Excessive consumption of fizzy drinks means that, without realising it, we add unnecessary calories to our diet, which ends up leading to weight gain and can trigger other pathologies such as diabetes or heart disease.
Some statistics about fatty liver disease
Hepatic steatosis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world. It is a fairly prevalent disease in developed countries, particularly affecting men between the ages of 40 and 60. It has an incidence of 15% to 35% depending on the country and has been on the rise in recent decades due to the increasing presence of type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity.
It is a disease that occurs in healthy livers and does not result from excessive alcohol consumption, a substance that is clearly hepatotoxic. Fats progressively accumulate in hepatocytes due to overproduction relative to their utilisation, resulting in increased sensitivity to factors that can cause liver damage and eventually lead to inflammation and fibrosis, preventing the organ from carrying out its functions properly.
The main symptoms and signs
Hepatic steatosis usually does not cause obvious or conspicuous signs. Most often it is a chance finding on abdominal imaging (mainly ultrasound or CT scan) for some other reason.
However, in some cases it may present with a dull pain in the abdominal region of the liver, be more tired than normal, or notice hepatomegaly, an enlarged liver that can be felt on palpation of the abdomen.
Most patients with fatty liver remain stable and the disease only degenerates into hepatitis and, in residual cases, liver failure. The coexistence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus favours its progression. Patients with fatty liver have been found to suffer more frequently from cardiovascular complications.
Medical diagnosis of the fatty liver disease
The diagnosis is usually a chance finding. Examination of the patient’s abdomen may be unremarkable, or the physician may note an enlarged liver or the patient may report pain on palpation of the liver region. Laboratory tests may show elevated liver enzymes (GOT, GPT and GGT), as well as decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and increased triglycerides, along with elevated blood glucose levels.
Abdominal ultrasound is the best imaging test because of its simplicity and low invasiveness to assess the findings of hepatic steatosis. CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be useful in diagnosing fatty liver. However, the definitive diagnosis will be made by liver biopsy, but given that this disease generally has a benign course, and the test has its risks, it is recommended not to perform it unless the patient presents risk factors for disease progression, such as advanced age, severe obesity, diabetes, or a significant alteration in liver enzymes. Tissue examination will allow assessment of the degree of inflammation and fibrosis.
How to prevent the disease
Fatty liver is an essentially benign disease and treatment is based on preventing its progression by detecting risk factors as early as possible and correcting them.
If the you are overweight or obese, it is advisable to try to reduce their body mass index (BMI) by means of an appropriate diet and moderate aerobic physical exercise (running, cycling, rowing, etc.).
If you suffer from diabetes or dyslipidaemia, it is important to have adequate metabolic control and the use of drugs prescribed by the specialist, such as anti-diabetic drugs like glitazones or biguanides, and antilipemiant drugs such as statins.
Although it is a benign disease, prevention should be sought by reducing the consumption of fats and sugars that can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, as well as by engaging in moderate physical activity.
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