5 Signs You Have “Too Much Fat” in Your Liver — Eat This Not That

Fat can build up almost anywhere on the body, including the liver. Having small amounts of fat in the body’s second largest organ is normal, but too much can cause serious health complications. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or steatosis is a common condition that “occurs in people who aren’t heavy drinkers. The condition affects one in three adults and one in 10 children in the United States, the Cleveland Clinic states. In some cases it can cause liver damage, but the good news is you can reverse it with healthy lifestyle changes and habits. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with John Angstadt, MD Director of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Staten Island University Hospital who shares what to know about steatosis and signs you have it.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.

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Dr. Angstadt explains, “The health concern regarding your liver and fat is fat that is deposited within the liver.  Medically, we call this condition steatosis.  You have steatosis when the amount of fat in your liver exceeds 5% of your liver’s weight. You deposit fat in the liver when you consume excess calories.  Any increase in calorie intake can cause steatosis.  Sugary drinks and alcohol are cited as common culprits as they add calories to your diet but really have no clear nutritional value.  We tend not to count liquid calories and it is easy to consume a lot of calories in a short period of time.”

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Dr. Angstadt tells us, “Today most steatosis is related to your weight.  Patients at risk are those with a body mass index over 30.  Body mass index or BMI correlates your weight to your height and is a general indicator of whether you have excess weight on your body.  As your BMI increases so does your risk of depositing fat into your liver.  We also see steatosis in patients with diabetes, metabolic syndrome and patients taking certain types of medications.”

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“Steatosis poses a significant risk if the disease progresses,” Dr. Angstadt states. “In some patients the fat in the liver leads to an inflammatory reaction called steatohepatitis.  This inflammation can lead to scarring in the liver, the hallmark of cirrhosis.  Once the scar tissue forms, it cannot be removed or treated so the best treatment is to avoid progression of the disease.”

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According to  Dr. Angstadt, “Weight loss is the best way to reduce or eliminate the fat in your liver.  You can lose weight with diet and exercise but if you have significant weight to lose (BMI over 35), surgical options provide a better result.  If you have diabetes, it is critical that you get your disease under good control.  If you have been told you have fatty liver, it is best to avoid alcohol of any kind. Dr. Angstadt emphasizes finding a good program and support network is helpful. “Staten Island University Hospital has a comprehensive Medical and Surgical weight loss program.  Using the newest medical advances, we help our patients achieve medically safe weight loss and reduce their risk of developing life shortening diseases.  Live longer and better.”

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Dr. Angstadt says, “Most patients with steatosis have no symptoms which is what makes the disease more dangerous.  Some patients note the following symptoms: 

  • Pain or fullness in the right upper quadrant over the liver 
  • Loss of appetite  
  • Nausea 
  • Yellow color to eyes or skin (more advanced stages) 
  • Swelling of your belly (more advanced stages)” 

Heather Newgen

Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather

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