Jan. 13, 2023 — A new study showing that eating fast food is bad for the liver may prompt people to eat less fast food in the new year.
The study found Eating at least 20 percent of your total daily calories from fast food increases your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a potentially life-threatening condition in which fat builds up in the liver. This disease can lead to cirrhosis and its complications, including liver failure and liver cancer.
People who are obese or diabetic are more susceptible to the harmful effects of fast food on the liver, although the general population is not immune either.
“I hope this study encourages people to seek out more nutritious, healthier food choices,” said lead researcher Ani Kardashian, MD, of USC Keck Medicine.
“At the policy level, public health efforts are needed to improve access to affordable, healthy, and nutritious food choices across the United States, which is especially important as more people turn to fast food during the pandemic, and food Prices have risen dramatically over the past year due to food inflation,” she said.
The researchers analyzed data on diet and fatty liver measurements of nearly 4,000 adults.
nearly 30% 20% or more of their total daily calories come from fast food, such as burgers, French fries, pizza, etc.
They found that obese or diabetic patients who ate a fifth or more of their daily calories from fast food had very high levels of fat in their livers, compared with those who ate little or no fast food.
Liver fat increases modestly in the general population when one-fifth or more of the diet consists of fast food.
The findings are especially “worrisome” given the increase in fast food consumption over the past 50 years, regardless of socioeconomic status, Kardashian said.
“If people eat one meal a day at a fast food restaurant, they may think they’re not doing harm. However, if a meal equals at least one-fifth of their daily calories, they’re putting their liver at risk among,” she said.
For people who have limited options and need to eat fast food, “most restaurants have healthy options,” says Nancy Reau, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who was not involved in the study.
Lisa Ganjhu, DO, NYU Langone Health, New York City, agrees.
“I’m a firm believer that fast food causes fatty liver. It goes hand in hand, and I counsel and coach my patients on healthy eating and exercise, and I’m very successful,” she says.
“If my patients eat at McDonald’s a lot, I basically browse the menu with them and help them find something healthy. When patients see the benefits of reducing fat and carbs, they’re more inclined to continue,”