By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
2016 may go down as one of the worst years for us music fans. We said goodbye to so many of the all-time greats, including pop legend George Michaels. After several weeks of speculation about the cause of his death --- including an ugly suggestion that foul play ws involved ---, an autopsy has determined that George Michaels died of heart disease --- specifically a dilated heart and cardiomyopathy --- and fatty liver disease.
George Michaels was only 53 years old at the time of his death. While most of us have an idea of what heart disease is and what causes it, fewer of us understand fatty liver disease. What is fatty liver disease? What causes this condition? What can we do to avoid developing fatty liver disease?
Fatty Liver Disease Is More Common Than You Think
There are two types of fatty liver disease. The first is fatty liver disease related to alcoholism. The second, and the more common form of the disease, is "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease", which is what it sounds like, fatty liver disease suffered by people who are not alcoholics.
It is estimated that between 80 million and 100 million Americans suffers from the disease that killed George Michaels, according to the . That one of every 3 Americans.
And Americans are not alone. According to a 2010 study from Italy, non alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common form of chronic liver disease in teh world.
The study, from Centro Studi Fegato, Azienda USL di Modena, in Carpi, Italy, from 20% to 30% of every one in the Western developed world suffers from this disease.
The rates of increase of the disease is strongly linked to the rise of rates of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Between 80% and 90% of obese people have fatty liver disease.
About 69% of people with Type 2 diabetes have non-alcoholic liver disease, according to a 2012 study lead by American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Fatty liver disease is defined as the condition that results when the liver accumulates more than 5% to 10% of its weight in fat.
Which Side of Your Body Is Your Liver On?
Your liver is on the right side of your body below your rib cage. Shaped like a football, your liver is the second largest organ in your body and weighs about 3 pounds, according to the American Liver Foundation.
Is Fatty Liver Disease Reversible?
Fortunately, fatty liver disease is reversible in the early stages. Your liver has the ability to replace damaged cells. If the disease has not progressed too far, and you don't have a lot of scar tissue (cirrhosis), your liver can heal itself.
Late stage fatty liver disease can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. This is what happens when someone dies of fatty liver disease. The liver gets overwhelmed by fat and scar tissue and just shuts down. Once the liver fails, your body loses its ability to cleanse your blood of toxins.
What can you do?
For your part , you need to help your liver to heal by following a liver-friendly diet.
First, you need to completely avoid those foods that you liver finds it difficult to process.
Foods high in fructose are Number One on that list. High fructose corn syrup has been strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Here's why.
Your body can breakdown two types of sugar, glucose and fructose. All the cells of your body can breakdown glucose for energy. But only one organ of your body can breakdown fructose --your liver.
As a result, when you eat any food with fructose, you create extra workload for your liver.
Unfortunately, foods rich in "high fructose corn syrup" are abundant in our food chain. You find it in snacks, you find it in breads, you find it in all sorts of processed products, desserts, even hot dogs and certain meat products have some fructose added top satisfy the notorious "sweet tooth" we all have.
Until 1980's, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was virtually unknown in the US. So, what happened?
Many believe you can trace the rise of fatty liver disease directly to the introduction of fructose into so many products in our food chain.
According to Harvard Medical School, we eat 5 times more fructose today than we ate back in the early 1900's.
You'll have to check the labels of the foods you eat. There's no other way to make sure you avoid the dreaded high fructose corn syrup.
Re-Claim Your Natural Body Weight to Prevent Fatty Liver Disease
Obesity and fatty liver disease go hand in hand. Eating too much food causes much of it to be stored as fat and one of the main storage places in your liver.
Not to get gory about it but, when you think about it, the same process happens when farmers force feed ducks. The ducks overeat, causing extra fat to be stored in their livers, becoming the delicacy the French call "fois gras", which literally means "liver fat".
Gorging yourself kills your liver.
On the other hand, eating low carbohydrate, vegetable based diet helps to cleanse your liver and has the side benefit of helping you to lose weight.
When you eat protein, prefer to eat fish such as salmon and sardines and lean meats such as skinned chicken. Red meat is not off limits but hold your self to a serving or two per week.
And you have to move. Walk around at least 30 to 45 minutes a day. Take the stairs. Dance. Yes, dance a lot.
It will raise your heart rate, burn calories and make you smile.