Fatty liver is a condition that is increasing in number during recent times. This is mainly due to the dietary changes that occurred in the last few decades. Because it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms it can go undetected for a long time.

The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in our body. It is working non stop throughout our lives doing various important functions to make sure our body runs smoothly.

What is fatty liver?

Fatty liver is accumulation of fat in your liver
Fatty liver is accumulation of fat in your liver

Your doctor will say that you have a fatty liver when there is excess fat inside your liver.

If your liver is made up of more than 5% of fat it is diagnosed as fatty liver.

Having small amounts of fat in your liver is normal. However having too much fat that leads to fatty liver can be a health problem.

What causes fatty liver?

Fatty food
Our dietary changes are to blame for fatty liver

Our dietary patterns are the main reason to blame for fatty liver.

Poor dietary patterns lead to obesity. Obesity is one of the most common reasons for fatty liver. If your diet contains too much fat that our body can’t handle the excess fat gets stored in the liver.

Read our post about maintaining the correct weight to avoid obesity and fatty liver.

Increased alcohol intake is another reason for fatty liver. When you drink too much alcohol that will alter the usual liver activity. This will cause unusual fat handling by the liver and the fat gets stored instead.

If you have medical conditions like diabetes mellitus or insulin resistance you are also at risk of developing fatty liver.

Just like weight cain severe malnutrition can also lead to fatty liver disease.

Why should I worry about my fatty liver?

stages of fatty liver
Stages of fatty liver

Basically, if you have fatty liver for a long period of time, or if you keeps on accumulating fat in your liver that maybe too much for your liver to handle.

This will cause your liver to inflame (swell). Unless you reverse your fatty liver, the long term inflammation will permanently damage your liver.

The end result is your simple fatty liver developing fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cell cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

This progression of the fatty liver takes a long time, even decades. And you may not show any symptoms until the late stages. An occasional abdominal discomfort may be the only symptom.

How should I avoid getting fatty liver?

Healthy vs fatty liver
Progression of your fatty liver

The easiest thing you can do is to make dietary modifications and living a healthy life.

  • Reduce the fat content of your food. Increase fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet
  • Reduce processed red meat.
  • Eat a balanced diet with the right amounts of fat and carbs.
  • Avoid eating fried food and fast food as much as possible.
  • Do regular exercising.
  • Maintain good body weight.
  • Control your diabetes.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption.
  • Switch to low-fat alternatives like low-fat milk.

Depending on the lipid levels in your blood your doctor may prescribe you medications that will reduce the bad cholesterol levels in your blood and may even help to prevent or reverse fatty liver.

Because the number of people having fatty liver is growing, fatty liver is an active field in scientific research.

The summary

Fatty liver is a preventable condition that is due to our unhealthy lifestyle. It can go undetected for decades and it can end up in serious liver damage.

Eat healthy food and live an active life and it will help you to live a healthy life without fatty liver.


Dr Rukshan Ranatunge is a graduate from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya (MBBS). He is currently studying for his masters in health informatics.

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