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Researchers find link between fast food and fatty liver disease

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Researchers find link

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Too much alcohol can cause liver disease, and now an unpublished study suggests that fast food can also have a direct impact on your liver health.

About 30% of people in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Many don’t know they have it. Who wouldn’t line up for a sweet, gooey egg pancake?

But these days, queuing to eat is more the norm than the occasional treat.

“I had Taco Bell yesterday. Panda Express the day before. Pizza Hut the day before,” said Kamry Morris from Los Angeles.

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Eagle Rock’s Alexa Crisostomo said she goes through the fast food drive-thru maybe three times a week.

Daniela Espiritu of Irvine said she gets fast food twice a week.

“If you go even every other day, that’s probably still too much,” said study lead author and hepatologist Dr. Ani Kardashian of USC’s Keck Medicine.

She said fast food consumption has surged during the pandemic.

“Fast food includes food from any drive-thru or restaurant that does not have wait staff,” she said.

If ready-to-eat style foods make up 20% of your diet, Kardashian’s findings reveal just how much that increases your risk of fatty liver disease.

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is another cause of major liver problems, including cirrhosis or scarring of the liver, liver failure, and one of the most feared complications of cirrhosis which is liver cancer,” said Kardashian.

The risk was significantly higher for people with obesity and diabetes. The researchers analyzed data from a national survey – 29% said a fifth of their calories came from fast food, and the same 29% were those with higher liver fat.

People with busy schedules say convenience is what “pulls” them to fast food.

“If I can drive somewhere and get my food instead of spending an hour cooking, I drive to get my food,” Morris said.

Kardashian said packing lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables at home can be more convenient than a drive-thru.

“If you change your diet. If you eat healthier. If you follow a Mediterranean diet, lose weight. We know you can actually reverse and reduce the amount of fat in your liver,” she said.

“I know the cost of food is high, but we can do it. Nothing is impossible,” Espiritu said.

Copyright © 2023 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.

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