FATTY LIVER AND NON-ALCOHOLIC STEATOHEPATITIS

Hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver, is a disease caused by an alteration of lipid metabolism that leads to excessive fat accumulation in the liver cells. There are various risk factors associated with the development of this condition, overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes among them. In our population, the high prevalence of these factors leads to the onset liver steatosis. It is a widespread condition, among the population in Italy, affecting one over three Italians. Since the absence of any symptom, the diagnosis may occur only in subjects that undergo abdominal ultrasound for any other reason.

Figure 1. A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet promote the accumulation of fat in the liver. The persistence of these conditions, with the concomitant presence of risk factors, such as type II diabetes, obesity, hypertension, can lead to a progression towards steatohepatitis and even more severe forms of liver disease.

Depending on the cause, steatosis can be differentiated into "non-alcoholic" or "alcoholic", occurring in alcohol abusers. Importantly, at the initial stages, hepatic steatosis is a reversible condition: Sometimes, a weight reduction combined with the adoption of a more appropriate lifestyle is sufficient; of course, in the case of alcoholic steatohepatitis, it is necessary to suspend the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

As previously mentioned, this is a subtle and silent disease, if not promptly diagnosed, and without a correction in the lifestyle, it can progress to steatohepatitis. At this point, the disease is rarely reversible and can evolve, during several years, to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Unfortunately, there is no pharmacological therapy for hepatic steatosis or steatohepatitis; therefore, prevention through a balanced and healthy diet and adequate physical activity is fundamental.

Hence, our recommendation is to follow the Mediterranean diet, practice at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and avoid alcohol consumption and smoking.

IMAGES LICENSES

Images where modified according to creative commons license.