UK Faces a Liver Disease 'Ticking Time Bomb' Fuelled by Rising Rates of Obesity

Priscilla Lynch 

June 11, 2021

The British Liver Trust is calling for greater awareness of a silent yet serious form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), non-alcohol-related steatohepatitis (NASH), as one million adults were reported to have been admitted to hospitals in England with obesity-related conditions in 2020.

The call for action coincided with International NASH Day (10 June), which aimed to raise awareness of the urgent need for prevention, detection and treatment of NASH.

It is believed that one in three people in the UK have early-stage NAFLD, which can be slowed or reversed if lifestyle changes are made. However, if not addressed, it can progress to NASH, then fibrosis and cirrhosis, and potentially liver failure, cancer and transplantation.

“The UK is facing a liver disease crisis and the alarming reports of an increase in obesity-related hospital admissions in 2020, should act as a warning of the ticking time bomb we are facing if action is not taken,” said Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust. “If the rising levels of obesity that are fuelling this are not addressed, the numbers with non-alcohol related fatty liver disease will continue to rise."

“In less than 50 years deaths from liver disease in those aged 64 and under have increased by more than 400%, whilst death rates for other major diseases including diabetes, respiratory, heart disease and most cancers have declined.”

Prof Stephen Ryder, hepatologist and medical advisor to the British Liver Trust, said: “Greater awareness of the risk factors of fatty liver disease is crucial. We also need patients to have much better access to non-invasive diagnostic tools to help to catch people earlier in their disease so they can make lifestyle changes or seek other treatments that will help them to prevent further damage and improve the health of their liver.”

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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