Here's How Fast Food Affects Liver Health

A recent study warns that regular consumption of fast food is detrimental to liver health. In particular, it has an impact on the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Here's How Fast Food Affects Liver Health
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Reviewed and approved by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 15 December, 2023

The negative effects of eating fast food have been documented for several years , and many consumers are aware of the effects it can have on both body weight and health. Now, a recent study warns of the consequences on the liver.

The research, published through the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, found that eating fast food on a regular basis raises the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, especially in patients with underlying diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Fast food consumption affects liver health

A team of researchers from the Keck School of Medicine, University of South Carolina (USA), linked regular consumption of fast food to impaired liver health. Particularly in high-risk groups, such as patients with obesity and diabetes.

Data on diet and fatty liver measurements in 4000 adults were analyzed. Thus, experts determined that those who consume 20% or more of their daily calories in fast food tend to have a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared to those who eat less or none.

And although patients with metabolic diseases are the most vulnerable to this complication, healthy people are not exempt from risk. Regarding this, Ani Kardashian, a hepatologist at Keck Medicine and lead author of the study, had this to say:

Healthy livers contain a small amount of fat, usually less than 5%, and even a moderate increase in fat can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Of the group of patients surveyed, 52% reported consuming some fast food. Of these, 29% consumed one-fifth or more of their daily calories from fast food. It was precisely in the latter group that a significant increase in liver fat levels was observed.

Pizzas, hamburgers, French fries and hot dogs, which are often sold in chain restaurants, were categorized as fast food. Other dishes abundant in trans fats and sugars can be included in this category.

With these findings, the study authors encourage people to look for healthier food choices. In addition, Dr. Kardashian points to the need for public health policies that facilitate access to nutritious foods:

This is especially important, as more people turned to fast food during the pandemic and the price of food increased dramatically over the past year, due to inflation.

Comida rápida y chatarra.
Fast food has negative effects on multiple aspects of human health. The liver is one of the organs affected.

You may be interested Eating fast food, possible risks

About nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encompasses a spectrum of liver conditions linked to metabolic disorders. Its main characteristic is an increased fat content in the liver in the absence of significant alcohol intake. According to

information reported in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, it is the most common chronic liver condition in the world. Its prevalence is estimated to be approximately one-third of the world’s population.

Although its exact cause is not established, its development is closely related to overweight, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and high blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels. In some patients,

excess fat stored in liver cells causes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the liver. Without prompt treatment, this can progress to more serious diseases, such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.

Hígado graso no alcohólico.
The accumulation of fatty tissue in the liver affects its function, potentially leading to more severe disease


How to take care of liver health

The appearance of liver disorders means a decrease in the quality of life. The liver is involved in around 500 vital functions, including the decomposition and elimination of toxins present in the blood, the storage of nutrients, the regulation of blood sugar levels, and the coagulation process, among others.

Hence the importance of adopting a lifestyle that improves its health and helps prevent complications. For this, it is key to maintain a healthy body weight, adopt a good diet and do regular physical exercise.

A study shared through Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition highlights that dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet -characterized by an abundant intake of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and fish-, gradually improve the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In conjunction with diet, this document points out that physical activity is key to the prevention and treatment of this disorder, since it has a positive effect on liver metabolism.

The weekly practice of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended.
Other actions, such as increasing water intake, avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, limiting sugar consumption and avoiding self-medication, are also determinants for the care of this organ.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.