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Patients adopt do-or-die strategy for fatty liver disease

ABU DHABI // Most patients who develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis fatty liver disease are changing their lifestyles to avoid reaching the final stage, which requires a liver transplant.

But Dr Khalid Elsayed, head of the gastroenterology and hepatology department at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said he recently saw an Emirati man, 35, who had diabetes for 10 years but did not take steps to address it.

He was obese, with a body mass index of 37 and high cholesterol, Dr Elsayed said.

“When I told him all the risk factors in terms of obesity and fatty liver, which he developed because he did not address his diabetic problem, he was shocked,” he said.

“We spent a lot of time discussing what difficulties he has to overcome in order to lead a healthy life, because it isn’t very easy for them to suddenly make a lifestyle change.

“We started by setting a target of losing 10 per cent of his body weight before revisiting the liver.”

Doctors usually see middle-aged adults for the fatty liver disease, but because of the prevalence of type 2 childhood diabetes, teenagers are starting to develop the disease.

Those who develop it are not necessarily obese. Unhealthy lifestyles can also cause the disease, said Dr Ganesh Bhat, gastroenterologist at Medeor 24×7 in Dubai. “I had a male patient who was 30 years of age and was very thin. He underwent ultrasound for some acidity issues he was facing, which flagged up the fatty liver,” Dr Bhat said.

“His liver function was mildly abnormal and he was on stage two of fatty liver. He also had a family history of high cholesterol, which was a contributing factor.

“More important, he led a very sedentary lifestyle with a lot of unhealthy food and no exercise. Had he neglected the fatty liver for a few years, or not found out about it, it would have become a serious problem.”

Because the patient had normal body weight, he was unaware that his eating habits could cause such problems.

“He was quite surprised to see that he had it and we had to explain that you need not be overweight or obese to develop it,” said Dr Bhat.

“An unhealthy lifestyle and increased intake of alcohol can both lead to it, regardless of the weight of the individual.”

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The National