Can Being Overweight or Obese Cause Liver Disease?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that being overweight or obese comes with a myriad of health issues. Among the most well known are heart disease — the number one killer in the United States — Type II diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), sleep apnea, stroke, osteoarthritis, colon cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, and gallbladder disease, to name a few. Yet, almost 72% of Americans are overweight or obese, making the issue a serious epidemic.
As if all of the listed health ailments weren’t enough, it’s important to note the effects of excess weight on the liver. This is because, along with the heart, lungs, and kidneys, the liver provides vital functions for your body to work properly – it filters blood, makes proteins for better blood health, metabolizes medications, and detoxifies chemicals. Therefore, an unhealthy liver can be life-threatening.
Can being overweight cause liver damage?
Yes. In fact, it causes more fatty liver disease on people than alcoholism. Being overweight or obese causes fat to accumulate in the liver. This leads to chronic inflammation and scarring of the liver (also known as cirrhosis). What’s alarming about this fact is that most people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease present no symptoms. It’s often discovered when the patient is having blood work or an ultrasound done for another purpose.
Another health risk for your liver if you’re overweight or obese is liver cancer. In fact, there are about 40,000 new cases of liver cancer diagnosed every year in the United States, with about 30,000 of them resulting in death – and most of them are caused by cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis also causes ascites — an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen — which makes it extremely uncomfortable to breathe and causes abdominal pain. While the condition can be an indication of cirrhosis, it may also be a sign of cancer.
What, exactly, is considered to be overweight or obese?
A person is considered to be overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is between 25% and 29.9%. A person is obese if their BMI is 30% or above. To measure your BMI, enter your height and body weight into a BMI calculator. A healthy BMI is between 18.5% and 25%. This being said, it’s important to note that your BMI is a starting point, as it does not take into account pregnancy or muscle mass. But, if you know you’re not pregnant and you lead a sedentary lifestyle, your BMI is a good indicator of your health risks.
Can you have fatty liver disease and not be overweight?
Yes. While the vast majority of patients with fatty liver disease are overweight or obese, there are a few people who aren’t typically considered overweight who can also develop the condition. This occurs in individuals who are of a normal weight range but who are also metabolically obese. These patients also have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The best way to determine if you’re at risk is to consult with your doctor, who will run tests to determine your actual percentage of body fat.
If you are overweight or obese, let us help you.
At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of disease. We work with over 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you.