Liver disease - the silent epidemic
A SHOCKING number of people today have liver problems without knowing it. This is because liver problems are often asymptomatic, meaning that they show no symptoms. The early symptoms of liver diseases are quite vague, such as fatigue, loss of weight or appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell. As the liver becomes more severely damaged, more obvious and serious symptoms such as jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes and skin) may become apparent.
Fatty liver is now believed to be the most common form of liver disease worldwide. Fatty liver disease occurs when fat exceeds five to ten per cent of the liver weight. It is normal for the liver to contain small amounts of fat and it is usually not considered harmful. The extra fat gives rise to free radicals and oxidants which damage molecules and cells in the liver, preventing cells from being able to metabolise fat. When too much of fat builds up in the liver, its cells begin to die.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the types of fatty liver for those who have never consumed alcohol or does not have excessive alcohol use. There are two stages of NAFLD – the early stage is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), while the more chronic form is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which there is an accumulation of fat and scar tissue in the liver as a result of cell inflammation and damage. Gradually, it may lead to cirrhosis, which is irreversible damage to the liver and the most severe stage of NAFLD (Figure 1). Liver cancer or liver failure may result, with some people needing a transplant.
Fatty liver is often related to obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Fatty liver is an emerging threat in Malaysia, especially among the overweight and obese population. According to recent findings, Malaysia has the highest obesity rate in Asia and more than 70 per cent people with NASH are obese. It is also reported that up to 75 per cent of people with NASH have type 2 diabetes, due to fat accumulation in the liver that has been linked to insulin resistance.
Most people don’t even know they have fatty liver until they go for a medical checkup. Because fatty liver is so prevalent yet asymptomatic, it is wise to take precautions to protect the liver. In the early stages, fatty liver disease can be improved and reversed by reducing or eliminating fatty foods and foods high in sugar from your diet as these cause body fats to build up. To help prevent, slow down or reverse the build-up of liver fat and liver damage, your diet should include a nutrient called Phosphatidylcholine, which is essential for optimal liver function. It is commonly found in food like eggs, soybeans and health supplements.
Phosphatidylcholine protects the health of your liver in several ways. It is a major component of cell membranes and plays an important role in maintaining the normal structure and optimal function of cells. It is also essential for cell growth and development. Phosphatidylcholine reduces and slows damage to cell membranes caused by free radicals and oxidants while stabilising the cell membranes. By doing so, it reduces cell death, fibrosis and fatty deposits in liver tissue. In addition, it has protective effects in nonalcoholic liver disorder, including protection against various other toxic substances. Studies have shown quicker recoveries and normalization of liver function tests with fewer relapses as compared to those unsupplemented with phosphatidylcholine.
In addition to Phosphatidylcholine, the liver needs vitamin Bs and vitamin E to help prevent fatty liver. Vitamin Bs help cells metabolise and turn carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy. They help break down fats, thus playing a role in preventing the buildup of fat that leads to fatty liver disease. By promoting the decongestion of the liver, vitamin Bs help it function better.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps reduce oxidative stress to the liver caused by free radicals and oxidants. Antioxidants work synergistically and vitamin E supports the body’s antioxidant system to neutralise free radicals and oxidants to prevent them from causing damage. Deficiency of vitamin E in the blood occurs in people with fatty liver disease due to increased oxidation, so they need more vitamin E.
Don’t be just another statistic in the silent epidemic of liver disease that is sweeping the globe. Protect your liver by living a healthy lifestyle and taking a health supplement containing Phosphatidylcholine, vitamin Bs and vitamin E.
This article was brought to you by Seven Seas Limited, a Merck company in health supplements worldwide. Merck is one of the world’s leading chemical, pharmaceutical and life science companies. For more info, please email [email protected] merckgroup.com