Eating fast food linked to potentially life-threatening liver disease, new study finds

If you need another reason to kick that late-night fast food habit, a new eye-popping study on the negative impact of fast food may provide just that. (Alicia Clarke, Alamy)

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TORONTO—If you need another reason to kick that late-night McDonald’s habit, a new revealing study on the negative impact of fast food can provide just that.

A peer-reviewed study from USC’s Keck Medicine, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, found that fast food consumption is associated with a potentially life-threatening condition of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

“Our findings are particularly alarming because fast food consumption has increased over the past 50 years regardless of socioeconomic status,” hepatologist and study lead author Ani Kardashian said in a news release.

Those studied in the study who consumed fast food as one-fifth of their daily calories were found to have seriously high levels of fat in their livers compared to those who consumed less or no fat at all.

Even those who consumed a relatively modest amount of fast food may experience liver damage, the study found.

The researchers analyzed recent data from the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the largest annual nutrition survey in the US, to determine how eating fast food may affect liver steatosis, the condition caused by too much fat accumulation. in your liver.

Fast food was classified in the study as coming from a drive-in restaurant or a restaurant with no wait staff, including pizza.

The researchers compared the fatty liver measurements of approximately 4,000 adults in the study to their consumption of fast food, and found that 52% of those evaluated consumed fast food.

Of this group, 29 consumed 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food. This percentage of people was the only one from the survey to show an increase in liver fat levels.

The prevalence of the association between fast food and hepatic steatosis was true in the general population as well as in those with obesity or diabetes, even after the data were adjusted for other factors such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, alcohol consumption and physical activity.

In 2021, according to Statista, approximately 29% of Canadian adults aged 18 and over were obese and 36% were overweight.

And while there have been other studies linking fast food and obesity, this is the first of its kind to establish its impact on liver health, according to Kardashian.

Fat intake should make up less than 30% of a person’s daily calories, and to improve NAFLD, according to another study, it is essential to consume anti-inflammatory foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Foods such as avocados, nuts and fish are some of the foods rich in these beneficial fatty acids.

The researchers hope that these findings will encourage health care providers to provide patients with more nutritional education in the future for those at higher risk of developing NAFLD from fast foods, such as those with obesity or diabetes.

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