Waist Not: Can You Be at a Healthy Weight…But Still at Risk for NAFLD?
For years we’ve all been told lowering our body weight (and ultimately, BMI) will go a long way toward combating a diagnosis of NAFLD (or preventing the condition from happening in the first place).
Doctors are still saying this is the single most important step in fighting NAFLD. But new research says your waist ratio may be having an impact on your liver health – even if you’re at a healthy weight.
Italian researchers are loosely calling the phenomenon “lean fatty liver disease.”
According to Rosa Lombardi, MD, from the University of Milan, the relatively small sample size of the study (just 334 patients) means the findings are not yet conclusive. Still, “there is a trend showing that lean fatty liver disease is associated with a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome [P = .04] and severe liver fibrosis [P = .05], compared with obese fatty liver disease” which warrants further investigation, Dr. Lombardi said.
A too-large waist measurement despite a healthy BMI may also indicate such issues as diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypertension or insulin resistance, Dr. Lombardi noted.
Patients in the study had biopsy-confirmed NAFLD, with 61 members recorded at a normal body weight and BMI. Nearly 36% of the normal-weight study participants had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and 20% had significant (grade 2 or higher) fibrosis.
Increased waist circumference (the danger zone for liver and other health) was defined as greater than 80 cm (31.5″) for women and 94 cm (37″) for men.
The findings were reported at the International Liver Congress, April 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.
“This study has proven to us that the severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is not necessarily linked to how obese an individual is, but instead how much fat build-up they have around the waist,” noted Frank Tacke, MD, PhD, University Hospital, Aachen, Germany. “The results have highlighted the need for additional research into why analyzing someone’s waist, and not just their weight, is important in detecting individuals at risk for complications associated with this disease.”