Researchers discover the link between fast food and fatty liver disease

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Too much alcohol can cause liver disease, and now a first study of its kind suggests fast food may also have a direct impact on your liver health.

About 30% of people in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Many don’t know they have it. Who wouldn’t stand in line for a sweet, gooey egg puff pancake?

But these days waiting in line for food is more the norm than the occasional treat.

“I ate Taco Bell yesterday. Panda Express the day before. Pizza Hut the day before,” said Kamry Morris of Los Angeles.

Eagle Rock’s Alexa Crisostomo said she goes through a fast food drive-thrus maybe three times a week.

Irvine’s Daniela Espiritu said she gets fast food twice a week.

“If you go, even every few days, that’s probably still too much,” said lead study author and hepatologist Dr. Ani Kardashian with Keck Medicine from USC.

She said fast food consumption has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

“Fast food includes food from any drive-thru or restaurant that doesn’t have wait staff,” she said.

If convenience foods make up 20% of your diet, Kardashian’s findings show how that increases your risk of fatty liver disease.

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is another cause of serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or scarring of the liver, liver failure, and one of the most feared complications of cirrhosis, which is liver cancer,” Kardashian said.

The risk was significantly higher for those dealing with obesity and diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from a national survey – 29% said a fifth of their calories came from fast food, and those same 29% were those who experienced more liver fat.

People with hectic schedules say convenience “drives” them to fast food.

“If I can drive somewhere to get my food instead of cooking for an hour, I’ll drive to get my food,” said Morris.

Kardashian said it can be more convenient to pack lean protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies at home than a drive-thru.

“If you change your diet. If you eat healthier. If you eat a Mediterranean diet, lose weight. We know you can actually reverse and reduce the amount of fat in the liver,” she said.

“I know the cost of food is high, but we can do it. Nothing is impossible,” said Espiritu.

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