Do You Have a Fat Liver?

Do You Have a Fat Liver?

Julian Whitaker, MD

Belly fat and insulin resistance are closely related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The portal vein, which goes from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver, lies smack in the middle of visceral fat. The free fatty acids generated by this adipose tissue are released into the portal vein and delivered directly to the liver, where they replace normal liver cells.

NAFLD doesn’t make you feel ill or jaundiced, and the only real indication of this condition—besides abdominal obesity—is elevated liver enzymes. Most people don’t even realize they have it. However, it is a harbinger of potential future problems. Excess fat in the liver stimulates free-radical activity, which kicks inflammation into gear and, over time, damages hepatic cells. In some cases, NAFLD progresses to more serious diseases such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (significant inflammation) or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

If You Have Diabetes, Beware

Should you be concerned? Studies suggest that NAFLD affects nearly 70 percent of people with type 2 diabetes and even more of those who are obese. But there is a cure for NAFLD: weight loss. Researchers at St. Louis University recently found that when patients lost at least nine percent of their body weight, they were able to reverse even advanced NAFLD. Exercise—independent of weight loss—has also been shown to improve liver enzymes in patients with this condition.

You should also go easy on alcohol and drugs that damage the liver such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen), and cholesterol-lowering statins, and take nutritional supplements that support liver health. These include silymarin (milk thistle extract), alpha lipoic acid, selenium, and other antioxidants.


  • The single most important therapy not only for NAFLD but for a plethora of medical conditions is weight loss. If you can’t do it on your own, call (866) 944-8253 to learn how the Whitaker Wellness Institute can help.


  • Patel AA, et al. Effect of weight loss on NAFLD. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2009 Sep 1. [Epub ahead of print].

From Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

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