Poor diet is a major factor in many serious health issues, with fast food often cited as one of the leading causes of liver disease. So, while fast food is convenient, inexpensive, and tastes good – is it worth the risks?
Recent research has indicated a link between regular fast food meals and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), making it important to consider the long-term risks when dining out. Today, we’ll take a look at how a poor diet high in fried foods and added fats could be detrimental to your liver, as well as steps that you can take to help minimize any potential harm.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may sound intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. In essence, it’s an accumulation of excess fat in the liver caused by eating many unhealthy foods, being overweight and having high cholesterol levels or diabetes. While non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can have serious consequences, such as liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, those who act quickly can reverse some of its effects with sensible lifestyle changes.
A new study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology used the data from the nation’s largest annual nutritional survey, the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to help determine the impact of fast-food consumption on liver steatosis.
Fast food was categorized as meals from drive-through restaurants or ones without wait staff. Pizza was also included in the study.
Approximately 4,000 adults’ fatty liver measurements were included in the study which was compared to their fast-food consumption. Of those surveyed, 52% consumed some fast food. Of those participants, 29% consumed one-fifth or more daily calories from fast food, and 29 % of survey subjects experienced a rise in liver fat levels.
The relationship between fast food consumption and liver steatosis held true even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, race, physical activity and alcohol use.
“Our findings are particularly alarming as fast-food consumption has gone up in the last 50 years, regardless of socioeconomic status,” said Ani Kardashian, MD, lead author of the study. “We’ve also seen a substantial surge in fast-food dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is probably related to the decline in full-service restaurant dining and rising rates of food insecurity. We worry that the number of those with fatty livers has gone up even more since the time of the survey.”
Researchers hope this study will encourage healthcare professionals to offer their patients with diabetes or obesity more nutrition education. Patients who are at a higher risk of developing liver disease need more information to make informed dietary choices.
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