Fast Food, Junk Food … and Fatty Liver Disease?

Fast Food/Junk Food

Fast Food/Junk Food

It used to be that when someone had liver disease, it was because of excessive use of alcohol.  Unfortunately, a new disease called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is on the rise, especially in children.  This is being caused by a diet of fast food, junk food and lack of exercise.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can progress to heart disease, type II diabetes and death.  It currently affects as many as one in five Americans and with those who already have diabetes it may be as high as four in five.  NAFLD kills an estimated 27,000 Americans each year and deaths from liver cancer have also risen.  The good new is that if you catch this in the early stages it can be reversed in a few months by eating a healthier diet and increasing your physical activity.

Morgan Spurlock, who wrote the award-winning film, Super Size Me, conducted an experiment on himself by eating only fast food from McDonald’s for 30 days.  During this time, he not only gained weight but also became fatigued, irritable, depressed, had mood swings and stomachaches and suffered serious liver damage.

Brent Tetri, MD, a professor at St. Louis University Liver Center, conducted a study where mice were given a diet that closely resembled fast food and were forced to remain sedentary.  It took only four weeks for the liver enzymes to increase and for glucose intolerance, which is the beginning of type 2 diabetes.

The ingredients that are the highest offenders are high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans-fats, and monosodium glutamate  (MSG).  These are the three major ingredients in junk food.  MSG, also listed as autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein, are a staple in fast food.  It can cause damage not only to the liver, but also the kidneys.  The good new is that Vitamins C and E can help protect against damage.

High fructose corn syrup is also in most junk foods.  HFCS interferes with the brain’s ability to sense you are full so you eat more and drink more sodas because the switch in your brain telling you you’ve had enough is turned off.  It suppresses the feeling of fullness.  Studies have shown that fructose is a big factor in the development of fatty liver disease and contributes to the severity of NAFLD.

Antioxidants, which are plentiful in fruits and vegetables, and exercise are key to undoing the damage done to your live.  As I often say, if you can just change your habits a little at a time, you will see great improvements in your life.  I hope you will become empowered to improve your life, by adding a little exercise and by eliminating some of these harmful ingredients from your diet.