Friday, October 18, 2013

Fatty liver disease on the surge in Philippines

IF Filipinos don’t watch out, the country may face an epidemic of fatty liver disease.  That is, if those overweight people will not start losing weight.

About 26.6 percent of Filipinos today are already overweight, a large increase from 16.6 percent reported in 1993.  Being overweight increases a person’s chances of becoming obese later in life.

For most people, the condition of being overweight is easy to recognize.  But medically, a distinction is made between being overweight and being obese.  The body mass index (BMI) is used to define these conditions.  BMI is weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters squared).  Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9, and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or more.

Body composition—the percentage of fat and muscle in the body—is also considered when obesity is defined. Women who have more than 30 percent body fat or men who have more than 25 percent body fat are considered obese.

A few years back, the Philippines was ranked third as having the “fattest people” in Asia—after Malaysia and Singapore.  At that time, about 500,000 Filipinos were classified as obese.

Due to the rising cases of obesity and of being overweight, the region may soon face an epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver is the accumulation of fat in liver cells; it is also called steatosis.  Aside from drinking alcohol and obesity, other common causes of fatty liver are diabetes and elevated serum triglyceride levels.  Malnutrition, hereditary disorders of metabolism (such as the glycogen storage diseases) and drugs (like corticosteroids, tetracycline and aspirin) have also been reported to cause fatty liver.

The mechanism by which these diseases or factors cause fat to accumulate within liver cells is not known. One possible explanation is that these diseases or factors slow the rate at which fat is processed [metabolized] and excreted by the body.  The resulting buildup of fat within the body, according to this theory, is then stored inside the liver cells.

Sometimes the cause of fatty liver is not clear, especially when it occurs in newborns; however, it is likely to be a defect in the so-called mitochondria, which are parts of the liver cells.

Generally, fatty liver produces no symptoms.  In rare cases, however, it results in jaundice (a yellowish discoloration of the skin and the white of the eyes), nausea, vomiting, pain and abdominal tenderness.

Although excessive fat in the liver may not in itself be a serious problem, its underlying cause might be.  For example, repeated liver injury from toxic substances such as alcohol may eventually progress from fatty liver to cirrhosis [severe scarring of the liver].  Therefore, treatment of fatty liver aims at minimizing or eliminating the underlying cause of the disorder.

Lifestyle modification, healthy eating, regular exercise and avoiding alcohol are simple ways to prevent fatty liver disease.  These are simple but very effective, especially if practiced by individuals at an early age.

With proper treatment and lifestyle changes it is possible to reverse fatty liver disease. The person suffering from fatty liver should eat vegetables and fruits and do regular exercise.  Consumption of varied vegetables from different ‘families’ and colors ensures a good balance between the different components needed by the body, and achieving various health benefits, including help curing a fatty liver.

Among the vegetables that are recommended by specialists are onion (high levels of vitamin C and dietary fiber), broccoli (high levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber, protein and anti-cancer components), cabbage (contains multiple anti-inflammatory components, and very high levels of vitamin C), carrot (excellent source of vitamin A and dietary fiber), tomato (contains lycopene, a very powerful natural antioxidant), sweet peppers (great source of vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C) and garlic (high levels of vitamin C, fights high cholesterol and blood pressure and cancer).

Fruits have high vitamin, dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidant properties, which all contribute for liver regeneration, repairing damaged liver cells and creating new ones. The recommended fruits for fatty liver are blueberries, blackberries, oranges, raspberries, plums, grapefruit, apples and cantaloupe. It is recommended to consume three to four fruits each day. Most of the fruits can be consumed also as a juice, but to keep its nutrition values, we must drink it within one hour after preparing the juice.

Education about fatty liver disease must start at an early age.  Since it’s a lifestyle disease, we need to teach our kids at an early age to practice a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits by avoiding junk foods, burgers, or French fries.


Post a Comment