Among many bad things going on in our bodies signified by high triglycerides, fatty liver disease may be the least talked about and understood. It has been called a silent epidemic as over 1/3 of American adults and 1/2 of obese children are thought to have it. This condition, if not reversed, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, just like in alcoholic liver disease. From there it can lead to liver cancer. Fatty liver is becoming the #1 cause of liver failure over both alcoholic liver disease and hepatitis. Picture a liver well marbled with fat. If you recall from previous posts, triglycerides build up primarily due to excessive dietary sugar some of which gets converted to fat (lipogenesis). Some of this fat gets stored in the liver resulting in fatty liver disease. The biggest villain among sugars in causing this disease is fructose. Although found in fruit, the greatest source of fructose is sucrose (table sugar which is 1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose) sweetened drinks and desserts and foods which have added high fructose corn syrup (> 1/2 fructose). While glucose passes through to the blood stream, fructose is preferentially turned to fat much of which is stored in the liver. Fructose has mistakenly been called a “poison” but it is not. In the small amounts our bodies were intended to take in, it actually has positive benefits.
The good news is that this condition is quickly reversible with a properly managed diet. Unfortunately, low fat diets, which can make it worse, are often still recommended. Fatty liver disease is, along with metabolic syndrome, among the most satisfying conditions we treat at Trinity/VitalSigns. We love to help folks reverse serious disease and become healthy for life!
Next time we’ll finish this series with a discussion of triglyceride transport by very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and its relationship to potentially dangerous LDL particles.