Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has become a medical epidemic in North America. It’s the main cause of chronic liver disease in adults in the United States and affects nearly one-third of the adult population.
In relation to several studies that demonstrated a connection between sarcopenia and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a new study has emerged that’s found that the degree of sarcopenia is related to the severity of a patient’s NAFLD diagnosis.
The researchers examined the data from previous studies of 3,226 people. The data revealed a significant relationship between sarcopenia and advanced liver fibrosis, which is one of the major diagnosing factors for liver disease. When the results were adjusted for other variables, the results remained the same.
The researchers of the study offered several hypotheses that could explain the connection between the loss of muscle mass and the development of liver fibrosis. Skeletal muscle is a primary tissue that connects to the whole body and plays a role in the distribution of insulin. When the muscles become depleted, there is less communication and insulin levels drop. Insulin resistance results in the developed of fatty tissues, which directly affects the liver and the development of liver cirrhosis.
Growth hormone was also predicted to explain the connection between sarcopenia and NAFLD. Growth hormone plays a critical role in the vertical development of children and the metabolic functions in adults. It’s a key factor in changes to muscle mass and its production can be drastically reduced due to obesity. Obesity is also known to be detrimental to skeletal muscles and the liver, causing ectopic fat build-up in the liver.
In addition, muscle wasting has related to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. The researchers write, “The interaction of several intracellular signaling pathways may affect the balance between protein synthesis and breakdown, inducing apoptosis, which cause the primary pathology of muscle wasting. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation also can result in a stress response of hepatocytes, leading to the development of NASH and progression of fibrosis.”
Vitamin D deficiency is also connected to sarcopenia and liver disease. A deficiency of vitamin D has long been found in patients with liver diseases and has more recently been associated with patients with sarcopenia, as it impairs muscle function.
The researchers concluded that the connection between sarcopenia and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is obvious, but the causation behind the relationship is unclear. It’s possible that sarcopenia is a symptom of NAFLD, but it may also be a complication of the disease.
The researchers believe the two conditions are so intertwined that the presence of either one is likely to increase the risk of the other and could potentially be used as an indicator for the future development of the other.
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