Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver, leading to inflammation and damage. It is called “non-alcoholic” because it is not primarily caused by excessive alcohol consumption, unlike alcoholic liver disease. NAFLD is closely associated with obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
There are two main types of NAFLD:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL): This is a milder form of the disease, where fat accumulates in the liver but doesn’t cause significant inflammation or damage.
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): In NASH, along with fat accumulation, there is also inflammation and liver cell damage. This condition can progress to more severe liver problems, including cirrhosis and liver failure.
The exact cause of NAFLD is not fully understood, but several risk factors and contributing factors have been identified, such as:
- Obesity or being overweight: Excess body weight, especially in the abdominal area, increases the risk of developing NAFLD.
- Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is often associated with obesity and plays a role in the development of NAFLD.
- Type 2 diabetes: People with diabetes are more susceptible to NAFLD due to insulin resistance and metabolic abnormalities.
- High blood pressure (hypertension): Hypertension is linked to an increased risk of NAFLD.
- High cholesterol and triglycerides levels: Abnormal lipid levels can contribute to the development of NAFLD.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of NAFLD.
- Certain medications: Some medications, such as corticosteroids and certain cancer drugs, can contribute to liver fat accumulation.