Fatty liver: in Italy 25% of the population suffers from it, 4 Italians out of 10, and they are often not aware of it. The liver plays a central role in the metabolism of our body for this to prevent (and if necessary) treat steatosis – this is the name of the disease – is essential, also intervening on the lifestyle.
Professor Alessio Aghemo, Head of the Hepatology Unit in Humanitas, spoke about it in an interview.
Fatty liver: what steatosis is and what it can become
“Fatty liver” is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver – explained the professor -. Spying on a possible metabolic syndrome, known as ‘Nafld’ (acronym indicating non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis) in itself is not harmful, as in the absence of other characteristics the organ regularly performs its functions. The real problem occurs when this condition evolves into ‘Nash’, i.e. non-alcoholic steatohepatitis”.
Fatty liver, therefore, can be a real time bomb: “When this transformation occurs we see a change in liver tissue – added the professor – While in steatosis we start from the liver composed of accumulations of fat, with steatohepatitis there are real formations of fibrous tissue” that “progressively compromises the function of the organ leading to cirrhosis and the development of liver cancer.
From steatosis and steatohepatitis: the causes of the degenerative process
The real causes and conditions that lead to the change of liver tissue are not yet entirely clear. According to some studies, a genetic disposition has been demonstrated, but at the same time the role of diet and nutrition is also becoming clear: “The excess of red meat and sausages, the use of industrial sugars, trans fats and polyunsaturated fats are some of the dietary factors involved in the transition from fatty liver to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis”, explained the professor.
Diagnosis and treatment
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is difficult to diagnose because it is asymptomatic until cirrhosis appears. The most commonly used method is fibroscan, an examination that allows to evaluate and recognize liver fibrosis.
There are still no drugs that can block the degenerative process of liver tissue, so it is essential to intervene on the lifestyle and try to protect the liver: “Changing diet, avoiding alcohol consumption and physical activity are the key factors to minimize the chances that the fatty liver evolves into ‘Nash’,” explained Prof. Aghemo.