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The rising of the silent fatty liver epidemic: a call for action

Guest blog: Juan Carlos Lopez Talavera, MD, PhD (Ready full bio below).

Chronic liver diseases are very common worldwide and have become a major global health issue. Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 showed that deaths due to liver diseases have increased 46% since 1990, being the 5th most frequent cause of death (3.7% of the population) accounting for 2.039 million death in that year. Putting these numbers in perspective, AIDS caused 1.341 million deaths, Diabetes mellitus caused 1.299 million and tuberculosis accounted for 1.29 million. Liver disease causes as many deaths as colo-rectal cancer, breast cancer and malaria, together ((0.771, 0.471 and 0.854 million respectively).

In addition to the high mortality rate, there is also a very high rate of hospital admissions of these patients due to the important need for clinical care, causing a huge burden to the health care systems worldwide due to very elevated costs of the medical care.

With the arrival of anti-viral therapies, the main cause for chronic liver disease, progression to cirrhosis, decompensation, liver cancer and death are non-viral diseases, most of them due to fatty liver. 

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are stealthily showing up in the livers of millions of Americans. Marked by the accumulation of an unhealthy amount of fat and scar tissue in the liver, NASH is quietly reaching epidemic proportions across the globe. By 2020, NASH is projected to overtake hepatitis C as the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S., mostly due to an alarming rise in obesity and type-2 diabetes—key risk factors for NASH—is coinciding with far better treatments for hepatitis C.  It is estimated that about 15 million people suffer this condition in the USA, with another 15 million in Europe and maybe about 250-300 million in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and other Asiatic countries. 

As per today, the only treatment option for these patients is liver transplant, which is only available to a few due to the lack of organs available and extremely high costs. Prevention and early diagnosis will be the keys to tackle this vexing problem, and a correct diet and healthy lifestyle are the pillars to accomplish it. Fitgenetix is a great resource for precision nutrition and fitness based on an individual’s genetics, providing a personalized approached to eating and working out.

 

About the author: Dr. Lopez-Talavera held positions at Abbvie as Head of Medical Affairs, Global Research and Development, and at Bristol Myers Squibb where he was Vice President and Global Development Lead, and at Roche Laboratories where he was Senior Medical Director. He was Assistant Professor with the Divisions of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Endocrinology and Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Prior to that Dr. Lopez-Talavera was Associate Professor of Medicine with the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and Attending Physician of the Liver Unit at the Hospital General Universitari Vall D’Hebron in Barcelona.

Dr. Lopez-Talavera was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the G.I. Section-Liver Unit at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, and Clinical Observer with the Department of Molecular Immunopathology at Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in New York.

Dr. Lopez-Talavera holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Hepatology from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed original manuscripts and co-authored the first publication describing HCV infection and disease in humans (Lancet 1989). Dr. Lopez-Talavera is a member of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) and member of the Board of Directors of American Liver Foundation (ALF) CT.

 

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