Fast food fans can suffer liver damage

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Jan 13, 2023 – A new study showing fast food damages the liver could motivate people to eat less of it in the New Year.

The study found that consuming at least 20% of total daily calories from fast food may increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a potentially life-threatening condition in which fat builds up in the liver. The disease can lead to cirrhosis and its complications, including liver failure and liver cancer.

People with obesity or diabetes are more susceptible to the harmful effects of fast food on the liver, although the general population is not immune to the damage.

“I hope this study will encourage people to seek more nutritious, healthier diet options,” says lead researcher Ani Kardashian, MD, with Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California.

“Political public health efforts are needed to increase access to affordable, healthy, and nutritious food in the United States. This is especially important as more people have turned to fast food during the pandemic and food prices have risen dramatically over the past year due to food inflation,” she says.

Researchers analyzed data on diet and fatty liver measurements from nearly 4,000 adults.

almost 30% of them got 20% or more of their total daily calories from fast foods like burgers, fries, pizza, and the like.

They found that people with obesity or diabetes who eat a fifth or more of their daily calories from fast food had greatly increased levels of fat in their liver compared to those who eat less or no fast food.

The general population had a moderate increase in liver fat when one-fifth or more of their diet consisted of fast food.

The results are particularly “alarming” given the rise in fast-food consumption over the past 50 years, regardless of socioeconomic status, Kardashian says.

“If people eat one meal a day at a fast food restaurant, they may think they’re doing no harm. However, if that one meal is at least one-fifth of your daily calories, you’re putting your liver at risk,” she says.

For people who have limited options and need to eat fast food, “there are healthy choices in most restaurants; You just have to be smart about reading labels, tracking calories, and ordering the healthier options,” said Nancy Reau, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who was not involved in the study.

Lisa Ganjhu, DO, with NYU Langone Health in New York City, agrees.

“I am a firm believer that fast food can cause fatty liver. It goes hand in hand, and I counsel and coach my patients on healthy eating and exercise, and I’ve been quite successful,” she says.

“If my patient eats a lot at McDonald’s, I basically walk them through the menu and help them find something healthy. When patients see the benefits of fat loss and reducing carbs, they are more willing to move on.”

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Fast food fans can suffer liver damage
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