Dr Hilary Jones discusses UK's 'obesity epidemic' on GMB
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Strongly associated with obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) is an entirely preventable health condition. However, one in five people in the UK are already in the early stages, says Bupa. As more fat is stored in the liver, inflammation develops and fibrosis occurs. Fibrosis is when liver cells are replaced by fibrous scar tissue; if the scarring becomes severe, it’s known as cirrhosis.
During cirrhosis, the liver becomes hard and irregular nodules develop.
If NAFL is able to progress to this stage, the condition can be life-threatening if liver failure occurs.
A routine blood test may have picked up on NAFL, so if you know you have the condition already, and you would like to reverse it, what can you do?
Dr Yiannis Kallis – a consultant hepatologist and gastroenterologist – alongside Dr Naveen Puri verified the correct measures to take.
One of the best ways to combat NAFLD is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
The doctors stated that one of the simplest dietary adjustments you can do is to pick “wholegrain carbohydrates”.
This means choosing breads, rice and pasta that are labelled “wholegrain”.
Another tried and tested method is to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your diet.
The NHS recommend at least five portions daily, but you can exceed this amount.
However, Dr Kallis and Dr Puri agreed that it’s important to “monitor your portion sizes”, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
When it comes to choosing which foods to eat, also be mindful that saturated fats are better replaced with monounsaturated fats.
Another great alternative to saturated fats is polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr Puri pointed out that tweaking your diet in this way may reduce your risk of heart disease – a condition linked to NAFLD.
Foods high in saturated fats:
- Butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Cured meats like salami, chorizo and pancetta
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats:
- Olive oil
- Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pecans and macadamias
- Canola oil
- Nut butters
- Peanut oil.
Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats:
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds or flax oil
- Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout.
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Safflower oil.
Five dietary tips to reduce liver inflammation and scarring:
- Choose wholegrain carbohydrates
- Avoid sugary foods and beverages
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Eat less saturated fats, and more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- Monitor portion sizes.
Other “self-help” methods to prevent NAFLD from getting worse is to lose any excess weight, exercise more, and to reduce alcohol consumption.
By moving your body and losing weight, some of the fat in the liver can be removed.
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