Expert warns that UK faces ‘major and growing challenge’ by 2020 as more Britons are diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Above: Image of liver - A third of Britons are estimated to be carrying fat in their liver, caused by over-eating, according to the Lancet.
Most liver transplants are expected to be linked to over-eating rather than alcohol abuse by 2020, an expert has said.
Dr Quentin Anstee, a consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and the Freeman hospital, warned the UK faced a “major and growing challenge” as increasing numbers of Britons are diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
A third of Britons are thought to have the condition, according to researchers, which is caused by people eating more than their livers can cope with.
Newcastle University is set to be the centre of a new Europe-wide research programme into liver disease, with Britain among the worst-affected countries.
Anstee said: “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the major and growing challenges facing the UK. “With such a large proportion of the population at risk, the challenge is identifying which individuals we need to hone down on. “There has been a shift in the entire population. The truth is that the man in the street is carrying a few more pounds than a decade ago. The rate of liver disease has increased 400% since the 1970s. “It’s predicted that by the end of this decade, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will be be the most common underlying reason why people are required to have liver transplants, overtaking alcohol.”
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease covers a wide range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat within the liver cells. It is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. Most people with the disease only carry small amounts of fat in their liver, which does not usually cause any symptoms.
The early form of the disease is known as simple fatty liver, or steatosis. According to a study in the Lancet, published at the end of last year, 33% of Britons have the condition.
Details of the research programme based at Newcastle University are set to be announced later this month.
Read more: Liver disease