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Study Reveals Alarming Rise in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Rates

According to a recent study, the rates of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have been skyrocketing over the past three decades, posing significant health risks such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. 

The research, presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, focusing on 32,726 adult participants. The results showed a substantial increase in NAFLD prevalence, rising from 16% in 1988 to 37% in 2018, indicating a 131% increase over three decades.

NAFLD is often referred to as metabolic-associated fatty liver disease and is strongly associated with certain genetic and metabolic disorders, including obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The disease is known to progress silently, with few or no symptoms, making it crucial for healthcare professionals to screen individuals with these risk factors.

Dr. Theodore Friedman, the study's co-author and an endocrinologist and professor of medicine, emphasized the importance of lifestyle modifications to combat NAFLD. He recommended avoiding junk food and processed foods, reducing carbohydrate intake, and increasing vegetable consumption. Weight loss through exercise and healthy habits has been shown to reverse fatty liver disease.

Dr. Sammy Saab, a professor of medicine and surgery at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, highlighted the urgent need for pharmacologic interventions that can reverse liver damage associated with NAFLD. The disease's global impact underscores the importance of addressing this growing health crisis, not only in the U.S. but worldwide.

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