More than 6 million Australians have liver disease and it’s costing the nation over $50 billion a year

This was the headline in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

These figures came from a report commissioned by the Australian Liver Association. It found that the most common cause of liver disease is actually non-alcoholic fatty liver. This is where an excessive amount of fat builds up inside the liver and impairs its ability to function. In some cases, fat builds up to such a degree that it causes rampant inflammation inside the liver that eventually produces cirrhosis and the need for a liver transplant.

According to Professor Zekry, chairwoman of the Australian Liver Association, the huge rise in the incidence of liver disease is mostly due to the spike in obesity and diabetes in recent years. At this stage, the most common reason for the need for a liver transplant is infection with the hepatitis C virus, however far more Australians are suffering with chronic liver disease due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Last year, in Australia approximately half a million people had liver disease due to the hepatitis B or C virus, while 5.5 million had fatty liver disease.

Traditionally liver disease has usually affected people over the age of 50, but fatty liver is increasingly seen in younger and younger people. It is now incredibly common in people in their mid 30s and we are increasingly seeing it in children. This is frightening because you can’t help but wonder how many years these children will live until they get to the point where they require a liver transplant. Will there be enough healthy livers to go around? That’s highly doubtful considering the increasing number of people afflicted by all types of liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease is also skyrocketing.

That’s all the bad news. The good news is fatty liver disease is entirely reversible in the vast majority of cases.

Having a fatty liver is really a lifestyle choice. You don’t have to have a fatty liver if you don’t want to.

An unhealthy diet is the most common cause of fatty liver. Contrary to what many people think, eating fat isn’t the cause of fatty liver; consuming too much sugar and carbohydrate is. Bread, biscuits, confectionery, pasta, soft drinks, chips, crackers and other carbohydrate rich foods are the biggest cause of weight gain and fatty liver disease. Some types of fats can cause fatty liver; these are processed fats such as margarine, seeds oils (“vegetable oil”) and deep fried foods.

Dr Sandra Cabot has had enormous success with reversing fatty liver in her patients by putting them on the low carbohydrate eating plan in her book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It. It is not a hard diet to stick to, you should not be hungry and there are plenty of delicious recipes to try.

Fatty liver often doesn’t cause many symptoms at all; consequently most of the people with a fatty liver aren’t aware of it. If you are carrying a bit of excess weight over your abdomen, please ask your doctor for a liver function test. It is a simple blood test that can detect inflammation inside your liver.

The earlier a liver disease is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat and manage it.

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