How fast food intake harms liver health

The study characterized pizzas, hamburgers, French fries and sausages or hot dogs, offered in restaurants or in so-called fast food chains, as fast food dishes.

Excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods high in sodium, fat, and added salt not only causes weight gain, but also affects cardiovascular health by increasing the risk of hypertension or high cholesterol. Now a new study provides additional motivation to reduce the frequency of fast food in your daily diet.

Recent research found that fast food consumption is associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a life-threatening condition in which fat accumulates in the liver.

A team of researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of South Carolina, USA, pointed out that people with obesity or diabetes who consume 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food have very high levels of fat in the liver compared with those who eat less or no fast food.

As for the population with no history of metabolic disease, they found moderate increases in liver fat when one-fifth or more of their diet consisted of ultra-processed foods. The research findings were published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The study characterized pizzas, hamburgers, French fries and sausages or hot dogs, offered in restaurants or in so-called fast food chains, as fast food dishes.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic steatosis, can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, which can lead to cancer or liver failure. Hepatic steatosis affects more than 30% of the US population.

In Latin America, 25% of the adult population suffers from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And the bad news is that it gives almost no symptoms in the early stage. As the pathology can progress silently and cause cirrhosis or liver cancer, today doctors warn that more attention must be paid to it. In addition, the disease is getting ahead of itself: more and more cases of fatty liver are being detected in adolescents.

A relatively moderate amount of fast food, high in carbohydrates and fat, can damage the liver, according to the study findings. “If people eat one plate a day at a fast food restaurant, they may think they are doing no harm,” Kardashian said. “However, if that meal equals at least a fifth of their daily calories, they are putting their livers at risk.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the nation’s largest annual nutrition survey, the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They evaluated the fatty liver measurements of 3,954 adults whose fatty liver measurements were included in the survey and compared these measurements with their consumption of fast food.

Of those surveyed, 52% consumed some fast food. Of these, 29% consumed a fifth or more of their daily calories from fast food. Only these 29% of the survey subjects experienced increased levels of fat in the liver.

The association between fatty liver and a 20% fast food diet remained stable for both the general population and people with obesity or diabetes, even after the data were adjusted for many other factors, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, alcohol use, and physical activity.