Fatty liver as a silent danger: what you should know about causes and symptoms

  • Sofia Lother

    OfSofia Lother


Almost one third of adults in Germany suffer from fatty liver. Often it remains hidden, these signs are possible.

Frankfurt – Fatty liver is the most common liver finding in Germany, millions of people suffer from it. Up to 30 percent of adult Germans are considered to be affected in this way Nuremberg Clinic relationships. As a result, liver disease is still relatively little discussed in public. They lead “a dark existence in public discussion,” explains chief physician Alexander Dechêne.

With serious consequences, because the rapid recognition of a liver disease such as fatty liver is important because it can lead to serious diseases. But symptoms are often non-specific, and a fatty liver is still usually only associated with excessive alcohol consumption. The medical situation at a glance:

Fatty liver as a silent danger: differentiation and symptoms at a glance

The reason fatty liver is often associated with alcohol consumption is that it can definitely play a role. If a lot of alcohol causes a strong accumulation of special fats (triglycerides) in the liver cells, this is called alcoholic fatty liver. According to that Federal Ministry of Health This often does not manifest itself with particular symptoms, although some sufferers complain of nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. If fatty liver is related to alcohol, the fat can regress if you do without it. Non-alcoholic fatty liver is therefore more problematic.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) is highlighted aloud German Liver Foundation First place in the diagnosis of fatty liver. Symptoms are not specific, which is due to the fact that there are no pain sensors in the liver, as in other organs. According to the foundation and the Federal Ministry of Health, the following signs can occur:

  • thirst and flatulence
  • Severe fatigue
  • fatigue
  • sleep disorders
  • Pressure or fullness in the upper right

Health: why is fatty liver so dangerous?

The fatty liver problem is mainly the secondary disease that can trigger the accumulation of fat. The best known of these are liver cirrhosis and liver fibrosis. One she studies by researchers at the Hannover Medical School has now shown that people with fatty liver are more likely to develop liver cancer. A fatty liver also has serious effects on heart health.

These habits can destroy your liver

woman goes jogging
Sport supports metabolism and can break down liver fat. A fatty liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular diseases are also promoted by a fatty liver. © Angelo Santana Garcia / Imago
The red and white pills lie on a plane
Some medications, such as acetaminophen, are broken down by the liver. Therefore, if you take medicines, you should always study the package insert. Especially if you are suffering from fatigue, loss of appetite or even upper abdominal pain following the intake. So you should go to your GP and have him checked to see if it could be due to the drug. © Imago
Iconic image: the man with the bare chest and wide waist is standing on the beach with a duck mask on his head
Being overweight usually has serious health consequences – from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to fatty liver. Because excess fat is not only stored in deposits under the skin due to lack of space, but also around internal organs. According to studies, so-called visceral fat is said to be highly active and can trigger inflammation in the liver and co. However, if you exercise regularly, you prevent obesity and therefore liver damage. © Oscar Carrascosa Martinez / Imago
Toast with margarine flakes
You can find them in burgers, cookies or even healthy margarine: trans fats. These are artificial fats in highly processed foods, which can quickly lead to obesity when consumed in excess. Even nutritionists have now recognized this: they have since been discredited. So if you want to do without it in the future, you should always pay attention to a product’s ingredient list. Finally, trans fats must be identified by the words “… oil, partially hydrogenated”. © Imago
The man carries six packages: Cola and Fanta
Cola, soda, and mates have long had a bad reputation for making you fat. Additionally, these often contain the supposedly healthy fructose. But too much of a good thing plus any overweight causes double poisoning of the overloaded liver. The result: non-alcoholic fatty liver. If this also becomes inflamed, there may also be a risk of liver cirrhosis. © Michael Gstettenbauer / Imago
Women eat watermelon
Unlike glucose, fruit sugar, also known as fructose, must first be converted in the liver so that it can be available to the cells as an energy supplier. According to studies, however, those who eat too much fructose in the form of fruit are even at risk of fatty liver disease. Experts therefore recommend a maximum of 25 grams of fructose per day. For comparison: there are already about six grams of fructose in 100 grams of apple. © Imago

Fatty liver: what are the causes and risk factors?

The growing number of people with fatty liver disease is often associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. Lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet are frequently cited risk factors. Overall, the following causes are underlined:

Causes of fatty liver
Too little movement
High calorie diet
severe overweight (obesity)
Metabolic disorders (such as insulin resistance)
type 2 diabetes
Metabolic syndrome
Source: Federal Ministry of Health

One study also concluded that people who eat a healthy diet can also be affected by fatty liver. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have determined that there are specific genetic mutations behind this.

Fatty liver as a silent danger: what role does diet play?

“There is no drug therapy for the treatment of NAFL. The cornerstone of therapy is lifestyle change, ”says lei das Federal center for nutrition (bzfe). This includes, for example, regular exercise. According to the Federal Center, a 45-minute walk three to five times a week has a very positive effect on metabolism. One study found that exercise can also have positive effects on liver damage. Diet also plays an important role.

Diet and fatty liver: what foods do experts recommend

The goal is to reduce your daily calorie intake and eat a balanced diet. Carbohydrates should be significantly reduced on the menu. Why: especially the carbohydrates fructose, glucose and sucrose are associated with the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. There are foods that can help regenerate the liver. Also, noisy bfz complex carbohydrates are preferred, such as:

  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • peanuts
  • whole grain products
  • legumes

Editor’s Note: The information provided in this article is not a substitute for a visit to a doctor. Only experts can make the right diagnosis and initiate adequate therapy. Taking medications or dietary supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand. (slow)

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