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Hepatic steatosis (NAFLD) - Introduction

Liver disease characterised by an excessive accumulation of fat (over 5%) in hepatocytes (liver cells).

 

The liver and its functions

The liver is the biggest and most complex organ in our body but, due to its complexity, we often ignore its functioning and relevance, tending to neglect prevention and cure.

The liver undertakes multiple functions:

  1. metabolic for sugar, proteins and fat;
  2. detoxing towards medicines, alcohol and other toxic substances;
  3. producing factors involved in blood coagulation;
  4. as a reserve of vitamins.

If we consider the kind of activity carried out by the liver from a metabolic point of view, we could compare it to cars fuel, necessary to their functioning and motion.

Metabolic pathologies: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

The liver untertakes different functions: when one of those abides unbalancing, the patients can face a series of pathologies. In the metabolic domain, the Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is definetely the least known.

With this term we refer to a liver buildup of fat (trygliceride) that reaches a threshold of maximum tolerance.

Having reached that threshold, the liver triggers a series of chemical reactions intended to burn the fat down, but such reactions can exacerbate the cause due to the production of free radicals which are able to damage hepatic cells and amplifying, as a consequence, the inflammation.

If not properly treated, the Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a pathology that can degenerate into hepatic carcinoma.

Until a few years ago, we thought that the only kind of malignant NAFLD - able to progress towards the most dangerous state of carcinoma - was caused by alcohol misuse. Recent researches have proved that, in the long term, the NAFLD caused by non-treated and/or related to other pathologies or metabolic imbalance of the risk factors can get worse and lead to a condition of chronic inflammation, up to a kind of chronic hepatitis (NASH - Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). The steatohepatitis can, in turn, progress more, up to the pathological stages of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

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