You don't have to drink to develop liver disease

Deaths from fatty liver diseases are expected to double in the next decade.

Nicholas Sokic 2 minute read June 23, 2020
image of GI system

Liver diseases are on the rise. Stock/Getty

A new study conducted by the Canadian NASH Network and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has confirmed that non-alcoholic liver conditions are a growing problem in the country.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) cases are expected to increase by 35 per cent and deaths expected to double to 49,100 from 24,400 in 2019 in Canada over the next decade. NASH and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are caused by the accumulation of fat in the livers of those who drink little to no alcohol. They can lead to liver scarring and fibrosis, and are also recognized to cause cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

The authors used “historical trends for obesity prevalence among adults to estimate longitudinal changes in the number of incident NAFLD cases.” Obesity currently affects over a third of Canadians.

The study’s model predicts the number of NAFLD cases would increase by 20 per cent between 2019 and 2030 to 9,305,000 from 7,757,000.

Further, cases of liver failure, liver cancer or liver transplantation, are expected to increase by 65 per cent by 2030. In the next decade, NASH-related liver deaths are expected to account for 11.3 per cent of total deaths in Canada up from 10.9 per cent in 2019.

Among the five per cent of Canadians with NASH, 17 per cent are predicted to have advanced disease. While it is difficult to track NASH and NAFLD due to a lack of obvious symptoms, those with obesity and diabetes are more at risk.

“There is a growing disease burden associated with fatty liver disease as rates of diabetes and obesity increase in Canada and globally,” says Dr. Alnoor Ramji, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia and study author in a press release. “Even if further increases in obesity and diabetes in Canada are halted, NAFLD-related illnesses and death are projected to increase for decades. This analysis gives us a detailed look at future disease incidences and can help to reinforce the need for health services, community services and public policies to positively influence health and lifestyle behaviours.” | @Sokic_



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