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Eating fast food may be linked to liver disease

Photo: Ziga Plahutar/iStockphoto

Need another reason to cut back on fast food? You could lower your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, University of Southern California researchers are saying.

The researchers looked at 2017-2018 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 4,000 adults. They evaluated people’s fatty liver measurement and compared it with their fast-food consumption.

The result: People with diabetes or obesity who got at least 20% of their calories from fast food had “severely elevated levels” of fat in their livers compared with those who ate less fast food or didn’t eat it at all.

People who weren’t obese and didn’t have diabetes were still affected: They had moderate increases in liver fat when 20% of their calories came from fast food.

Fat in the liver can develop into nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and scarring of the liver. That scarring can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Around 30% of people in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to USC.


“If people eat one meal a day at a fast-food restaurant, they may think they aren’t doing harm,” lead study author Ani Kardashian, a hepatologist at the university, said in a press release. “However, if that one meal equals at least one-fifth of their daily calories, they are putting their livers at risk.”

The study was published online in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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