Previously, it was believed that only drinkers developed liver disease, but with the rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) it seems that alcohol isn’t the number one threat to your liver. Because the name itself – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – implies fat, many lean people believe they are safe from the condition – but, unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a serious condition that can progress into liver cancer or cirrhosis. It occurs when fat permeates the liver, causing it to lose its functioning ability. Healthy lifestyle choices – such as eating well, exercising regularly, not drinking, and not smoking – are often the first line of defense in preventing NAFLD.
There is currently no cure for NAFLD, but researchers may be steps closer to a possible treatment.
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine uncovered a protein that promotes the absorption and breakdown of lipids (fat). If the researchers could develop a drug stimulating this protein, it could help treat NAFLD.
The protein, known as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR)-alpha, is responsible for breaking down lipids. It is commonly found in the muscles, liver, and kidneys. In NAFLD, (PPAR)-alpha proteins are less effective, so fat is accumulated in liver as a result.
Prior to the discovery of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, researchers were unaware of (PPAR)-alpha’s role, but this discovery could lend way to possible treatments for NAFLD.
The research is still in its early phase, but pharmaceutical companies are already on their way to come up with a drug to stimulate the protein in hopes to treat NAFLD.
In the meantime, prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is your best defense against the potentially fatal condition. Furthermore, don’t let yourself be misguided thinking that just because you are skinny you are totally safe from NAFLD. You still need to eat well and exercise, as well as keep your fat levels down to prevent NAFLD.