Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD is currently a worldwide problem, taking epidemic proportions and affecting 1 billion people with 20-30% in industrialized countries.
NAFLD is the accumulation of fat in the liver caused by our Western fatty diet and is highly correlated with obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal fat levels). Indeed, obese people have an 80-90% chance of having NAFLD. Untreated, NAFLD can lead to liver inflammation, liver cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer.
Many scientists in academia and the pharmaceutical industry all over the world are trying to find new drugs to prevent or cure this widespread disease, especially since only 10% of NAFLD patients are able to treat their disease by starting a healthy life style with exercise. Currently, no drugs are approved yet for the treatment of NAFLD, although some are in late clinical trials such as elafibranor which reduces fat in the liver. Interestingly, there are some fascinating common alternatives, which scientists found to be helpful in treating NAFLD:
- Vitamin E: Antioxidants such as vitamin E and others, could help protect the liver by reducing or neutralizing the damage caused by inflammation. Scientific studies suggests vitamin E, found in nuts and plant-based oils, may be helpful for people with liver damage caused by NAFLD (4).
- Caffeine: In studies of people with NAFLD, those who reported drinking coffee had less liver damage than those who drank little or no coffee. It’s not clear how coffee may influence liver damage or how much coffee you’d need to drink in order to benefit. If you already drink coffee, these results may make you feel better about your morning cups of coffee !
In conclusion, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD is a global health problem, especially since obesity numbers are increasing, but effective treatment options are on the way. Meanwhile, enjoying a cup of coffee may help protect your liver!
- Willebrords J, et al. 2015 Progress in Lipid Research
- Boeckmans J, et al. 2019 Pharmacological Research