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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeHealthFatty Liver Disease Surge in Sweden: The Lifestyle Blame Factor

Fatty Liver Disease Surge in Sweden: The Lifestyle Blame Factor

Fatty Liver Disease Rising Among Swedes: Lifestyle To Blame, Not Alcohol

According to new figures, an increasing number of Swedes are falling victim to cirrhosis and other liver diseases with lifestyle at the root, not alcohol, as previously believed. Approximately one million Swedes suffer from fatty liver, the most common form of liver disease in the nation. Yet the disease exhibits no symptoms preventing many from realizing their condition, which can potentially escalate to cirrhosis and liver cancer over time.

Fatty Liver: Understanding Its Link to Obesity

Fatty liver disease used to be primarily linked to alcohol abuse but this is no longer the case. The main cause now is lifestyle-related issues such as obesity, overweight, and type 2 diabetes. However, the stigma associated with alcohol abuse still wrongly shadows liver diseases, according to Hannes Hagström, an associate professor and physician at Karolinska University Hospital.

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A recent study led by Hagström and his team discovered an alarming increase in non-alcohol related fatty liver and cirrhosis in Sweden, at rates of 217% and 87% respectively during the period of 2005-2019. Despite these findings, the majority of individuals with fatty liver continue to be blissfully unaware of their condition.

Rise in Alcohol-Related Cases and Liver Cancer

Alcohol-related cirrhosis saw a 47% rise, and liver cancer cases grew by 34% over the past 15 years. The upward trends correspond with an increase in the risk factors for liver disease.

More worrisome, however, is that the study records more people dying from liver disease. In 2019, about 1,700 people succumbed to liver disease, which equates to 1.9 percent of all deaths that year. Most of the victims had liver damage due to fatty liver or alcohol.

Effect on Swedish Youth

Hannes Hagström warns that with obesity becoming more prevalent in children and younger people – currently, almost half of all Swedes are obese or overweight – an upward trend in fatty liver among the young is foreseeable. This is alarming as it signals the probability of the patients who fall prey to cirrhosis or liver cancer getting youthful in the years to come. Pediatrician and obesity researcher Claude Marcus confirms that he meets young people diagnosed with fatty liver every week.

Why is Weight a Crucial Factor?

Excessive calorie intake leads to the overfilling of fat cells in the body, which prompts the dispatch of fat into the liver where it is stored in liver cells. Long-term accumulation of fat can cause inflammation and subsequent scarring in the liver – referred to as liver fibrosis. If unchecked over a long time, it can result in a severe condition known as liver cirrhosis.

Addressing Fatty Liver: Lifestyle Changes Needed

The most important treatment is embracing lifestyle changes, losing weight, getting regular exercise, and abstaining from alcohol. A damaged liver generates new cells and holds the potential to rectify itself if timely action to remove damaging elements is taken. Hannes Hagström suggests losing around 10 percent of the body weight can eliminate fat in the liver.

The Discrepancy in Liver Disease Cases Across Sweden

Interestingly, the study revealed regional disparities in Sweden. More cases of liver disease are prevalent in the sparsely populated areas than in big cities. One area that conspicuously stood out was Gotland. Whether the cause is a higher fraction of obese people or elevated alcohol intake in Gotland remains a mystery, triggering concern over potential unequal healthcare.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the surging numbers in fatty liver disease among Swedes urgently calls for widespread awareness, early diagnosis, and proactive lifestyle changes. While the condition exhibits no symptoms, simple blood tests can identify it at an early stage, paving the way for timely interventions. This is particularly essential in light of the data revealing more people dying from their liver disease.

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