Weight Loss Surgery May Treat Liver Disease

A harmful liver condition that is often a result of obesity appears to be overcome amongst a majority of patients following the results of bariatric surgery, according to a published report. Obesity has grown in recent years from afflicting 15 percent of the population in 1980 to 32.9 percent in 2004.

One of the serious conditions that results from obesity is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition occurs in about 70 percent of the obese and in 85 to 95 percent of those who are morbidly obese. Individuals with a body mass index of 30 or greater are considered obese. Those who have a BMI of 40 or above are morbidly obese.

NAFLD has the potential to progress into life threatening conditions such as cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Lead author Gagan Sood, of the University of Texas, and his colleagues analyzed data from 15 other studies and arrived at a positive conclusion. He claims his team’s assessment of the effect of post-bariatric-surgery weight loss on the liver offers encouraging news for patients. A majority of patients suffering from NAFLD experienced a complete resolution of the condition following bariatric surgery. The Risk of progression of inflammatory changes and fibrosis seemed only minimal.

Sood and other researchers examined four different aspects of NAFLD: steatosis (fat accumulation in liver cells), steatohepatitis (liver inflammation accompanied by fat accumulation), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH (inflammation, fat and liver tissue damage), and fibrosis (progressively worse liver damage characterized by growth of connective tissue and scars).

The researchers discovered that there was some improvement in or curing of steatosis in nearly 92 percent of patients, of 81.3 percent of those exhibiting steatohepatitis, of nearly 70 percent of NASH patients, and of 65.6 percent of those with fibrosis. The researchers claimed that clinical research, with uniform methods of tissue analysis, should now be initiated to determine more about the complex relationship between weight loss and NAFLD.

According to two additional studies published on bmj.com, obesity and alcohol work in tandem to increase the risk of liver disease in both men and women. Researchers from the University of Oxford in the first study examined the connection between body mass index and liver cirrhosis. A total of 1.2 million middle aged UK women took part in the Million Women Study. Each participant was monitored for an average of 6.2 years.

Women who were overweight or obese had an increased relative risk of liver cirrhosis compared to women of normal weight. This relative risk did not differ greatly according to alcohol consumption, but absolute risk did. Among healthy women, .8 in 1,000 who drink only half a drink a day will encounter liver cirrhosis. For obese women, this risk increases to about 1 in 1,000. However, among healthy women who drink two and a half drinks a day, 2.7 in 1,000 will be admitted to the hospital with liver cirrhosis. For obese women, this number increases further to 5 in 1,000.

Researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol investigated in the second study how BMI and alcohol consumption jointly affect liver disease in more than 9,000 men in Scotland. Participants were followed for an average of 29 years. The researchers found that the combination of BMI and alcohol consumption was greater than the additive effect of the two separate factors

Obese men who reported drinking 15 or more units per week and the greatest risk of liver disease: nearly 19 times greater than underweight or normal weight non-drinkers. The researchers believe that lower, BMI specific “safe” limits of alcohol consumption may need to be introduced for people who are overweight. They believe that preventive efforts are required to limit the affordability and availability of alcohol and to increase physical activity.


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