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Can Fatty Liver Cause Weight Gain? (From A Doctor)

Donald Christman
Published by Donald Christman
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: July 22, 2022

Liver damage is one of the most serious diseases that people can deal with, but what many people don’t fully understand is how fatty liver is linked to weight gain.

What’s worse is that there can be a positive feedback loop where fatty liver makes you gain weight, and obesity worsens your liver problems.

To figure out how this disease can impact your weight loss efforts and whether there are more serious health issues linked to it, I spent hours with a doctor discussing the issue as well as revising the most relevant literature.

Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • Many people associate fatty liver with excessive alcohol consumption, but there are other causes of this serious disease.
  • Struggling with weight loss can be due to toxic waste in your body because your liver isn’t filtering effectively.
  • Becoming overweight is just one of the problems people could face, and it’s important to fully understand how important a healthy liver is.

Can Your Liver Make You Fat?

A woman with liver pain

Yes, fatty liver can cause weight gain as the body struggles to properly process nutrients [1].

Chronic liver disease like this causes the liver cells to become overburdened, and as a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to metabolize harmful toxins and body fat.

Your metabolism can also slow down, meaning that you burn fewer calories while your body is resting. And that means that more energy is transformed into stored fat.

The problem gets worse when you consider that increasing fat gain will cause further issues for your blood pressure and liver function.

The excess fat may also cause insulin resistance, and that puts further pressure on gaining weight as the body struggles to deal with fluctuating blood sugar levels [2].

It’s like a vicious circle where non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can cause weight increases, and the added weight can make things worse for the liver.

Obesity And Fatty Liver Disease

Medical research has shown that fatty liver can cause rapid weight gain and abdominal obesity [3].

This can become noticeable within just a few months and even continue when you do physical activity.

One of the common factors of obesity and impaired liver health is eating excessive refined carbohydrates [4].

Simple carbs like sugar are easily absorbed and metabolized into blood sugar.

Spikes in blood glucose then lead to insulin spikes, and that causes more of that excess energy to be stored as fat. And as the body stores more fat, some of that gets deposited as visceral fat in and around organs [5].

“Too much of any body fat is bad for your health. But compared to the fat that lies just underneath your skin (subcutaneous fat), the visceral kind is more likely to raise your risk for serious medical issues.”

- Debra Jaliman, MD at WebMD.com.

Ways To Improve Your Liver Function

A doctor with stethoscope and a liver hologram

Because of the vicious circle of fatty liver and obesity, it’s important to take actions that positively impact your body composition.

Here are a few things you should consider.

1. Anti-Inflammatory Food

Inflammation of the bowels and other organs can become a serious long-term problem, but it’s possibly most serious for liver cells. One study has looked at the impact of eating more nuts, which contain a lot of healthy fats [6].

Try adding some walnuts to your breakfast and even eat a handful as an afternoon snack as part of a healthy diet.

You should also drink green tea or take an extract as a supplement, as well as some apple cider vinegar.

2. Reduce Sugar Intake

Sugar is the biggest enemy you can have on a weight loss journey. And when it comes to fatty liver, studies have shown that all forms of sugar can have a significant impact on the disease [7].

What this means is that you should avoid sugary soda and treats, and you also want to reduce drinking too much fruit juice.

Use an app like Noom to get a full understanding of your total sugar intake and take a significant step towards a healthy liver.

3. Avoid Processed Foods

A processed foods in a fast food chain

Another contributing factor to NAFLD is consuming lots of highly processed foods [8].

Not only does this introduce an unhealthy amount of excess fat for your liver to process, but it also increases your total cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, this is a common type of food for the general population.

Make some serious diet changes and ensure that all the food you eat is prepared in your kitchen and not in some factory. Buy raw ingredients and get into the habit of preparing them yourself.

4. Exercise More

After you’ve fixed your diet, it’s time to work on your body weight through additional exercise.

You should work out at least three days a week doing some form of aerobic exercise [9]. This will also help you deal with high blood pressure and other health problems related to carrying too much weight.

You can start losing weight consistently if you set a goal of three trips to the gym each week and 10,000 steps every day of the week.

What Are The Main Causes?

Pouring beer on a big glass mug close up image

The most common cause of fatty liver is excessive alcohol consumption. But the non-alcoholic version of this disease is mostly tied to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome [10].

Ultimately, all of these issues lead back to a poor combination of diet and exercise habits.

Here’s what I mean.

People who eat a lot of processed food and simple carbs will have a higher tendency to put on weight. And when you don’t exercise, they’re limiting how many calories the body can process in a day.

Blood glucose spikes and poor nutrition can then lead to diabetes and metabolic diseases, which further impact your liver health.

What Are The Symptoms?

The main symptoms of fatty liver are constant stomach pain and fatigue [11]. Other symptoms in advanced stages are abdominal swelling and yellowing skin.

If you notice these symptoms persist in varying degrees throughout a regular week, then it’s time to see a doctor.

It’s even more vital to seek medical attention if you have weight problems and these symptoms, as the longer you leave these untreated, the more serious the outcome can be.

FAQs

Is It Harder To Lose Weight With A Fatty Liver?

Yes, it is harder to lose weight with fatty liver, but it’s also more important to set a drastic weight loss goal.

You have to break the vicious circle of gaining weight and impaired liver function, and that means eating fewer carbs and exercising more.

How Do You Know If You Have Fatty Liver?

The only way to know if you have fatty liver is by having it diagnosed by a doctor.

Medical tests will reveal elevated liver enzymes, and symptoms could include abdominal pain and nausea.

Take The Right Steps To Deal Fatty Liver

After you have read this article, if some of these things raise your doubts, you should consider consulting your doctor.

Also, even when everything is fine with your liver, it is recommended to take supplements for liver detoxification.

These products help the work of the liver and even in severe cases can even regenerate it.


References:

  1. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/how-to/how-to-keep-your-liver-healthy-and-how-a-toxic-liver-affects-you/articleshow/86860758.cms
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/endoscopic-weight-loss-program/conditions/fatty_liver_disease.html
  3. https://www.cureus.com/articles/64260-rapid-onset-of-weight-gain-and-liver-dysfunction-successfully-treated-with-nutrition-and-exercise
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4405421/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-visceral-fat
  6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/liv.14164
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29408694
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34528679/
  9. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7050-aerobic-exercise
  10. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15831-fatty-liver-disease
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567

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