Dr. Robert S. Brown Speaks on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Host: People who don’t have issues with alcohol can still develop liver problems, serious ones, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease effects some 80 million people in the United States, that’s a big number. Here to tell us about it, Dr. Robert Brown Medical Director at the Transplantation Initiative at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, that’s a long title of a school. Dr. Brown thanks for coming in. First of all, what is Fatty Liver Disease?
Dr. Brown: Most people think of liver disease as a problem just in people who drink alcohol or do other bad things to themselves but non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition where fat accumulates in the liver and then the liver becomes inflamed and even scarred all the way to cirrhosis without alcohol or any of those known toxins.
Host: So no alcohol but are there behavioral elements that contribute to it?
Dr. Brown: Yes it’s most common in patients who are either obese or diabetic but we have a proportion of patients who are not overweight who still seem to have this and there are probably genetic factors as well. We see it in higher rates for example in the Hispanic community.
Host: I read that 70 percent of people with type-2 diabetes can develop this?
Dr. Brown: Almost everyone who is diabetic will have some degree of fat in their liver and a good proportion can go on to develop this NASH, this more serious form that can go on to develop advanced liver problems.
Host: So what are some of the symptoms?
Dr. Brown: Unfortunately NASH is a silent epidemic. We don’t see any symptoms until the liver disease is more advanced so people really need to talk to their doctors and if they’re at risk get some simple blood tests to see if it might be a problem.
Host: In terms of behavioral day to day if someone hasn’t been diagnosed with this but has Type Two or thinks that might be in harms way what are some of the things they can do to prevent their body developing it.
Dr. Brown: I think we all need to live and eat healthier. We need to eat less we need to eat a better diet we need to increase our exercise, stay thin, and if you have diabetes meet with your doctor and keep that in good control.
Host: 80 million people is a huge number and probably there are people who die from related issues, why is this something we haven’t seen more of, is it just because of the stigma with liver disease everybody assumes it’s because of alcoholism?
Dr. Brown: I think there are elements of stigma, we also don’t look until its advanced and only a small proportion of the 80 million people will go on to develop a liver problem but as you said 80 million is a big number and a small proportion of a big number is gonna be a large number of people who are gonna have this problem in the future and obesity is increasing at quite a clip. The number of obese children for example has tripled in the last decade.