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Raising awareness of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Posted: Friday, June 23, 2023. 7:46 pm CST.

By Celeste Chang: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver. NAFLD is a frightening public health hazard in the Americas, including Latin America.

This disease is one of the main causes of chronic liver disease globally and is directly linked to the increased of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in the general population. The worldwide prevalence of NAFLD has been estimated at 20 to 30 percent, however its prevalence in Latin America is not known because of a lack of epidemiological studies in these countries.

NAFLD is caused by obesity or being overweight; insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin; High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes; high levels of fats and particularly triglycerides in the blood. ABC News reports that “Certain genes and metabolic disorders — such as obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — are known to raise the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a leading cause of liver transplantation.”

Given the tendencies of diabetes and obesity, NAFLD and its consequences are expected to skyrocket in the near future. According to studies being done by ‘Annals Hepatology’ under the research of Jorge A. López-Velázquez, Karen V. Silva-Vidal, Guadalupe Ponciano-Rodríguez, Norberte C. Chávez-Tapia, Marco Arrese, Misael Uribe, and Nahum Méndez-Sánchez, the rates of NAFLD and obesity were highest in the United States, Belize, Barbados, and Mexico.

Belize’s estimated rate of NAFLD is 28 percent, same as Barbados and higher than Mexico (26 percent) and Central America (15 to 20 percent) and almost as high as the United States (29 percent). This is concerning as we are a third world country with limited resources to tackle this kind of aggressive disease.

While NAFLD has little to no symptoms some sufferers report fatigue and pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen. Experts advise that those suspected of having NAFLD should adopt a healthy plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats and maintain a healthy weight. Those already overweight or obese should reduce the number of calories you eat each day and get more exercise.

 

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