What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic steatosis, occurs when there is an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver. There are two main types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The causes of these two types differ:

  1. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD):
    • Alcohol consumption: Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption is a leading cause of AFLD. The liver breaks down alcohol, and excessive intake can lead to the accumulation of fat within liver cells.
  2. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): NAFLD encompasses a range of conditions and is not caused by alcohol consumption. The specific causes of NAFLD are not fully understood, but several factors contribute to its development:
    • Obesity and overweight: Obesity is closely associated with NAFLD. Excess body weight, particularly abdominal obesity, is a significant risk factor.
    • Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome: Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, is often present in individuals with NAFLD. It is frequently associated with metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
    • Type 2 diabetes: People with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing NAFLD.
    • High levels of triglycerides: Elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood can contribute to the development of fatty liver.
    • Genetics: Some genetic factors may predispose individuals to NAFLD.
    • Medications: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, tamoxifen, and methotrexate, have been linked to the development of NAFLD in some cases.
    • Other medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), sleep apnea, and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), are associated with a higher risk of NAFLD.

It’s important to note that NAFLD can progress to a more severe form called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which involves liver inflammation and can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. NAFLD and NASH are increasingly prevalent worldwide, largely due to the rising rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

If you suspect you have fatty liver disease, it is essential to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and management. Lifestyle changes, including weight loss, physical activity, and a healthy diet, are often recommended to improve the condition and prevent its progression.