Over one-third Indians have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: AIIMS study

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A recent study of AIIMS which analyzed all studies on Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has estimated that more than one-third (38%) of Indians have a “fatty liver” or “metabolic dysfunction associated steatotic liver disease” previously called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This is not restricted to adults but affects nearly 35% of our children as well.

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is often unrecognised since it does not cause symptoms in the early stage, but may progress in some patients with severe liver disease. The cause of ‘fatty liver’ or ‘steatohepatitis’ is the recent westernisation of our diets which involves increased intake of fast food, lack of healthy fruits and vegetables on the plate, and an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle,” Dr Anoop Saraya, Head of Department of Gastroenterology, said.

He said the ailment is considered the “liver counterpart” of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Although there is currently no approved drug treatment for fatty liver, the condition is reversible, he added.

“The only way to conquer this new epidemic is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and achieve weight loss in obese individuals through adequate diet, restrict junk and sugary food intake, and exercise regularly,” Saraya noted.

Experts say alcohol intake remains a common cause of liver disease in India. Intake of alcohol can lead to “alcoholic hepatitis” and cirrhosis, which can progress to liver cancer and death.  “Alcohol accounts for most of the cases of severe liver damage which are admitted to hospitals with diagnosis such as ‘acute chronic liver failure’ and these have a high mortality,” Dr Saraya stated.          

A study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here reported 67 per cent deaths among patients with antituberculosis drug-related acute liver failure. Of all patients with antituberculosis drug-related acute liver failure, 60 per cent were started on medicines without confirmed tuberculosis. 

Another AIIMS study has shown that hepatitis A and E constitute 30 per cent of cases of acute liver failure, with high mortality of over 50 per cent. This study was conducted by the Department of Gastroenterology and HNU, AIIMS, New Delhi.