Altogether, an estimated 15-30% of people around the globe have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in those who drink very little or not at all which mimics liver disease in heavy alcohol drinkers. According to Yahoo News!, doctors are now concerned about rising NAFLD rates in the Filipino community. On June 16, 2022, Dr. Diana Alcantara Payawal expressed worry that an estimated 10-20% of Filipinos had NAFLD – but many of them were unaware. In fact, shares Dr. Payawal, some of the rising rate can be attributed to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been numerous periods in which people were under quarantine restrictions. This means that many people spent more time at home and less time staying active. Since elements like obesity or high cholesterol can play a role in NAFLD development, these quarantine restrictions – and potentially unhealthy habits integrated into our lives – could contribute to higher rates. For Dr. Payawal, this is particularly troubling as more than 18 million people within the Filipino community are obese, with others having a variety of pre-existing conditions which could increase their risk.
Moving forward, Dr. Payawal – and other doctors – hope to raise more awareness about the “silent epidemic” of NAFLD. More so, these doctors hope to inspire people to take action to protect themselves against NAFLD – including reducing calories and unhealthy food items, exercising more, and drinking more black coffee.
About Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for conditions that cause excess liver accumulation in the liver that is not due to alcohol consumption. It is considered to be the most common form of chronic liver disease in the United States. In some cases, those with NAFLD may develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which the excess fat causes inflammation, scarring, and sometimes loss of liver function. Risk factors for NAFLD include having high blood sugar, high cholesterol, or high levels of fat in the blood; being obese; insulin resistance; having sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); being older in age; or having either an underactive thyroid or pituitary gland. In some individuals, symptoms will not appear until the condition has progressed. Those who experience symptoms may experience:
- Intense fatigue
- Upper right abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Unintended weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Enlarged spleen and blood vessels
- Red palms
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
- Liver failure or liver cancer