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Fatty liver is an epidemic in India: Sarin, ILBS Director

New Delhi: “Fatty liver in India is so common that it can be designated as an epidemic in our country, about 30-40 per cent people have fatty liver. Whether it be blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers, they are all in some way or the other connected to liver inflammation and higher than normal fat content in it” said Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin, Senior Professor, Department of Hepatology & Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi.
Dr Sarin was speaking at a webinar titled ‘Caring for Liver- Prevention & Management’ recently, it was organized by ASSOCHAM.
Dr Sarin explained the relation between fatty liver and high blood pressure and heart problems “If high fat accumulation is detected in the liver through ultrasound then it is something to worry about. For those who have fatty liver, detected through ultrasound, but other indicators like cholesterol and triglycerides are fine it is likely that in 10 to 15 years that individual would suffer from diabetes, blood pressure and heart problems. What happens is when liver fat over flows it gets deposited in the arteries then the heart and so blood pressure and heart problems develop.”
He warned that fatty liver raises the risk of diabetes “Diabetes is a liver disease, those who have fatty liver, insulin cannot enter into the liver hence there is an inability to neutralize the glucose in the food. In such a person insulin production would go up every day to the point when the pancreas would get exhausted. So, for those whose liver is healthy, chances of diabetes would be lesser. If a person has a fatty liver and SGOT/PT too are high, for them the diabetes risk is about 5 to 10 times higher. Needless to say such a person was to consume alcohol then the problems would aggravate pretty fast.”
Dr. Kapil Dev Jamwal Head, Unit II Gastroenterologist Artemis Hospitals, Gurugram speaking at the webinar explained how liver problems affect immunity and may even cause erectile dysfunction “Liver is involved in production of such proteins and immunoglobulin’s that help in formation of antibodies which help in building immunity. Patients who have advanced liver disease like Cirrhosis, in them testosterone level goes down which may result in lowering the volume of the testes and they could develop erectile dysfunction.”
Dr Sarin was not particularly convinced that the so-called liver tonics available in the market do actually work and warned that people must be careful while choosing such supplements saying that these could also cause harm. He gave some dietary tips for maintenance of sound liver health “Liver never ages, it can be rejuvenated even at advanced age unless it is fatty, the best thing is that one has to have a healthy diet full of colored vegetables, 60-70 pc of the food intake should be uncooked food, Sattu and Kangi are very good drinks for the liver. Fasting is an excellent liver tonic; the second thing to remember is that one should not have too much variation in his diet. Because if the diet changes too often then the gut environment has to adjust on regular basis, this would be detrimental to the liver. Coffee with minimum sugar and little or no milk is good for the liver, green tea is also said to be good but the study is not conclusive on that. Similarly, turmeric is very beneficial for the liver and so are walnuts. Mustard oil is healthy for cooking.”
Dr Sarin stressed the importance of exercise for those who suffer from liver ailments “liver patients face the problem of muscle loss, exercise can ward off and make a person recover from liver disease. For fatty liver patients they have to do two types of exercise – aerobic exercises and resistance exercise. The definition of exercise is once you have started sweating then 45 minutes after that, don’t count the warm up as part of the exercise. Even if you are not able to shed weight due to exercise remember it is helping your liver in shading fat, which is very desirable.”

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