Alarming new statistics show that 1 in 4 Canadians may be affected by liver disease
March 7, 2016 : The obesity crisis is taking its toll on the liver with potentially deadly consequences. Research shows that 1 in 4 Canadians may be affected by liver disease due primarily to the rapidly rising prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease linked to obesity, lack of physical activity and poor eating habits. This progressive disease is predicted to overtake hepatitis C as the leading cause of liver transplants.
“Many people still believe that all liver disease is alcohol related,” says Dr. Eric Yoshida, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee. “With the prevalence of non-alcoholic liver disease however, the odds of anyone, including adults and children, being affected by liver disease are in the same realm as health conditions like heart disease or diabetes that Canadians are far more familiar with.”
A review of current liver disease data reveals that as much as 20 per cent of the Canadian population has fat build-up in their livers. ‘Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease’ or NAFLD is a term used for the condition that varies in severity from simple fat accumulation with no inflammation to its most advanced stage that involves inflammation and fibrosis. From this advanced stage, a person can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.
“A diet full of sugar, high calorie and high fat foods can lead to excess fat being stored in the liver,” explains Dr. Yoshida. “This fat build-up might never impact the functioning of the liver but it is the first step toward what could be a life-threatening condition.”
If left unchecked, NAFLD has the potential to develop into cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
“NAFLD is already having an impact on the demand for liver transplants but what few realize is that it is also affecting the supply,” explains Dr. Yoshida. “Too much fat in a donor liver can mean that that organ cannot be used for a transplant. This means it is making the organ shortage even worse and we are losing out on the opportunity to save more lives.”
The good news is that NAFLD can often be prevented, or even reversed if it is detected before permanent liver damage has occurred.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is alarmed by the dramatic change in liver disease statistics and wants to alert the public about their increasing level of risk. “When you bring up the topic of liver disease, it doesn’t take long for someone to say how it has personally affected them or someone they know,” says Gary Fagan, Canadian Liver Foundation president. “Ten years ago we said that 1 in 10 Canadians were at risk but when you factor in the rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease along with prevalence rates for hepatitis B and C, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune liver diseases, children’s liver diseases, liver cancer and more, we are now looking at 1 in 4. The numbers show liver disease is relevant to everyone. People can’t ignore it any longer.”
March is Liver Health Month and the Canadian Liver Foundation is using this opportunity to encourage Canadians to consider how close liver disease might be to them and those they love and to find out how to get involved in helping themselves and others. The public can view the video and visit www.liver.ca/tooclose4comfort to learn the facts about liver disease, the stories behind it and to join in the CLF’s awareness efforts by posting photos on the CLF’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with the hashtag #tooclose4comfort to share their own stories of how liver disease has affected them.
About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.
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