The liver is paramount in our metabolism, and it is important to keep it healthy. Professor Massimo Colombo, Director of the Translational Research Center at Humanitas’s Hepatology, spoke about the health of the liver and the importance of treating steatosis (or “fat liver”) through a healthy lifestyle in an interview for Rai3’s program “Tutta Salute”.

“Our liver is paramount in our metabolism. In fact, it produces the elements that keep us alive, such as proteins, sugars and fats. Moreover, it produces and deactivates hormones, and it produces the bile. This substance is necessary to digest food, because it helps digestive enzymes process food”, Prof. Colombo explains.

What is a fat liver?

“When the liver accumulates fat (generally, neutral triglycerides) inside the cells, liver cells grow in size and, consequently, the liver itself becomes bigger. Due to this enlargement, some patients may feel swelling, itches or pain”.

How does it get diagnosed?

“However, if steatosis affects most of the liver, only then physical symptoms or laboratory results occur. The diagnosis relies heavily on the clinical records of patients (lifestyle, overweight, diseases) and on the exam with a specialist”.

Patients get blood exams and an echography of their abdomen. “This exam, that requires patients to fast in advance, is able to pinpoint and quantify steatosis. If the specialist deems it necessary to look for a steatosis that involves less than 30% of liver cells (impossible to see in an echography), a MRI may be used instead. It is only done in special cases, and it is able to locate steatoses down to 5%”.

What should fat-livered people do?

“Risk factors for fat liver are: being overweight, having diabetes and high cholesterol and triglycerides, alcohol abuse or due to some medications. In 1-2% of the cases, fat liver may evolve into structural liver damages. It is important to eat healthy and exercise regularly in order to keep your weight and cholesterol under control, thus avoiding cardiovascular and cerebral risks. In 98% of the cases this behavior protects the liver against fibrosis.

Those who have a fat liver should understand the causes of steatosis, treat the diseases that cause it, avoid being overweight by means of a healthy diet providing the right calories in relation to physical activity, limit alcohol consumption, and avoid smoking”, Prof. Colombo says.