Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a serious and growing problem. Previously linked with obesity, a new study also connects it to maternal obesity – meaning that what your mother ate during pregnancy may affect your future liver health.
Medical News Today: Written by Tim Newman
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by a buildup of fat within the cells of the liver. Although having fat in the liver is normal, if there is an excessive amount, it can lead to liver scarring and cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis describes a process during which liver cells are gradually replaced by scar tissue, hindering the liver’s capacity to work effectively.
NAFLD is estimated to affect 20 to 30 percent of people in the Western world, and this level appears to be on the rise.
Although some of the risk factors are understood, it is not always clear why one person develops NAFLD while another, similar person, does not. Because of the rising prevalence of NAFLD, a great deal of research is currently under way that attempts to generate an understanding of the pathways behind the condition.
The latest research comes from a team headed up by Dr. Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. The results are presented on Monday 24 April 2017, at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting, held in Chicago, IL.
Using a mouse model, the research explores the effect, if any, of a maternal high-fat diet on the offspring’s liver health.
Dr. Thompson explains the reasons for his decision to embark on the current project: “Complications of obesity are a significant cost burden for the medical system, especially given the prevalence of obesity. Understanding how maternal exposures impact obesity-related disease such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will allow us to develop lower-cost preventative therapies to utilize up front rather than awaiting complications down the road.”