The liver is one of the largest and most important glands in our body. Its main tasks include detoxifying the blood, removing excess glucose from the blood and storing it as glycogen, producing bile for fat digestion and excreting hormones, drugs and cholesterol.
When lifestyle and diet are imbalanced, the liver can be compromised and cause many long-term complications. The main disease that is developed due to lifestyle factors is called fatty liver.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the accumulation of excess fat in the hepatocytes, or liver cells, which can cause the liver to turn yellow and enlarged. Missing treatment can eventually lead to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. Conditions that coincide with fatty liver disease include type 2 diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, and metabolic syndrome. Some of the symptoms that help identify NAFLD include stomach pain, loss of appetite, jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes, and weakness.
A high intake of saturated fats and simple sugars can have negative effects on the liver. The Western diet focuses heavily on these types of macronutrients, which are mainly found in processed foods such as sugary drinks, pastries, and fried foods. On the other hand, high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, lean meat, and vegetable protein can help prevent and slow the progression of NAFLD. Some examples are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, low-fat dairy products, and oily fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel.
The role of micronutrients has a beneficial treatment for NAFLD. These include vitamins A, C, D and E as well as zinc and copper. These offer antioxidant and antifibrotic effects that balance progression.
Changing your diet and increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of complications in NAFLD and create a better quality of life.
Veronica Delgado is a nutritionist at DeTar Hospital.