Study Finds Link Between Elevated Blood Sugar (even in prediabetics!) And Liver Disease Progression
There are no approved drugs to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, but controlling blood sugar over time will nearly eliminate this disease and its progression to potential cirrhosis and liver scarring.
According to a new study by Duke Health researchers, the average three-month blood glucose levels of patients with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) influenced their chance of having progressive liver disease, scarring of liver tissue, and cirrhosis. The higher the blood sugar, the greater the risk.
Because of obesity, and the elevated blood sugars that cause obesity, NAFLD fatty liver is on the rise. In fact, NAFLD is becoming one of the leading reasons for the need for a liver transplant.
In this recent Duke study, for every 1 percentage point increase in hemoglobin HbA1c (a measure of average blood glucose levels) the chances for severe liver damage from NAFLD rose by 15%.
Not only do a significant portion of diabetics have NAFLD, but many prediabetics have this condition as well – but most don’t know it.
Nearly 10% of adult Americans are diabetic. More importantly, another 35% of Americans are prediabetic. And it is estimated that nearly 75% of prediabetics, don’t know they are prediabetic. Consequently, 45% of adult Americans are at risk for NAFLD, and most don’t know it.
NAFLD has replaced alcoholic cirrhosis as the second leading cause of liver transplants in the US (hepatitis C is still the most common reason). Most people think of alcohol as being a big threat to liver health, but now obesity and elevated blood sugar is a much greater potential danger. In the context of liver health, people are aware of the connection to alcohol. However, it is important to be aware that a high blood sugar, over time, can cause equally severe liver damage as well.
Could you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?
Common risk factors include obesity, gastric bypass surgery, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Most people have no symptoms. In rare cases, people may experience fatigue, pain, or weight loss. Over time, inflammation and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) can occur.