What Are the Risk Factors for Fatty Liver Disease

What Are the Risk Factors for Fatty Liver Disease?

• Family and genetics. Genes are linked to fatty liver disease. PNPLA3 gene polymorphic variants, particularly 1148M mutations, are associated with the accumulation of fats in the liver and insulin resistance, leading to fatty liver disease. The PNPLA3 gene encodes a phospholipase enzyme that hydrolyzes phospholipids and regulates fat metabolism in the liver and adipocytes. The 1148M gene mutation inactivates a phospholipase enzyme, causing disorders in fat metabolism and the accumulation of fats in the liver and adipocytes. About 60% of fatty liver disease is caused by PNPLA3 gene mutations.

• Alcohol. Alcohol in the bloodstream enters the liver, where alcohol is converted to fat and stored, causing alcoholic fatty liver disease. Besides fatty liver disease, alcohol can induce hepatic inflammation, oxidative damage, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Acetaldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol, is a carcinogen that can damage DNA and increase the incidence of tumorigenesis. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer.

• Sugar. Sucrose is the most common form of sugar found on food labels and consists of glucose and fructose. In the human digestive tract, sucrose is converted into glucose and fructose, both of which are then absorbed by the intestines and enter the bloodstream. Glucose gets into the brain, heart, liver, muscle, and all other organs and tissues in the body, where it is used as fuel to produce energy. On the other hand, all fructose in the bloodstream ends up in the liver, where it is converted to fat, causing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

• Smoking. Chemicals in cigarette smoke enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver. These chemicals can induce the fibrosis of hepatic cells, decrease insulin sensitivity, and aggravate the symptoms of fatty liver disease. Obese people who smoke heighten their risk of fatty liver disease.

• Metabolic syndrome. Five contributing factors for metabolic syndrome include a thick waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL, hypertension, and high blood glucose. People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of those five contributing factors and have an elevated risk of fatty liver disease.

• Obesity. Fat in the liver is either made in the liver or transported into the liver. Alcohol and sugar increase the production of fat in the liver. On the other hand, fat tissues in obese people release fatty acids, which enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver, where fatty acids are converted to fats and stored in the liver, increasing the risk of fatty liver disease.

• Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes patients have a threefold increased risk of fatty liver disease compared to healthy individuals. Excessive fat in the liver affects insulin metabolism, leading to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes the liver to accumulate more fat. Type 2 diabetes patients who are obese have a high risk of fatty liver disease.