The prevalence of Non-Alcohol Related Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) among urban Indians was fast catching up with their counterparts in Western countries and was accounting for almost 50 per cent of cirrhosis of liver (fibrous scarring and damage) cases.
The prevalence of NAFLD in Indian population was 20-30 per cent in the urban areas while it was 36-45 per cent in the West.
The rural areas were better off with a prevalence rate of 8.7 per cent, according to Dr. Manisha Bangar, gastroenterologist and executive council member of Indian Association for Study of Liver Diseases (INASL).
She said that while alcohol was the most common cause for accumulation of fat in the liver, non-alcohol related fatty liver disease was surpassing it. NAFLD was mainly increasing due to wrong dietary habits and high intake of fats, carbohydrates and less consumption of proteins. Observing that it was a lifestyle disease, she said vegetarians were at an increased risk as carbohydrates ultimately get converted into fat.
She said that NAFLD causes liver damage, leading to liver failure in 10-15 per cent patients. Many factors predispose people towards NAFLD and the important ones among them were obesity, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance).
Among Indians, more than 90 per cent of obese people have fat accumulation in liver as against 10 per cent of lean patients.
Dr. Manisha said there were subtle differences across cultures. The trend among Indians suggests that there was a propensity to accumulate fat in internal organs even at lower BMI (body mass index) compared to their Western counterparts, indicating that genetic factors were at play.
It was found that those carrying APOC3 gene variant were at higher risk for insulin resistance and high liver fat accumulation.
“Many a time, fat accumulation in internal organs might be higher due to wrong dietary habits even though one is thin,” she added.
She said damage to liver could be reversed if NAFLD was in early stages by adopting life style changes like consuming low-fat diet, regular exercise and through weight loss.