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Symptomless disease that sneaks up on you: TV doctor warns of silent killer

Michael Mosley Warns of Silent Killer on the Rise in the UK. The Guardian.

Are you aware of the silent health threat that could be lurking within you? 

It’s not high blood pressure, but something equally concerning. 

TV doctor Michael Mosley, renowned for his contributions to health and wellness, is raising the alarm about a disease that often goes unnoticed but is fast becoming a significant health concern in the UK.

Speaking at the launch of his new app for “The Fast 800” plan, Mosley shed light on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that silently affects many, with no routine test available on the NHS. 

While it doesn’t exhibit symptoms, being overweight is a key indicator as it results from an excess of fat in the liver. 

If the disease catches up on you, the consequences can be devastating as it leads to severe liver damage and even cirrhosis in its advanced stages. But that’s not all – high levels of liver fat are associated with increased risks of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes.

The Prevalence of NAFLD: A Hidden Threat

Did you know that up to one in every three people in the UK may have early-stage NAFLD? 

This means there are small amounts of fat in their livers, a situation that a healthy liver should not have. Michael Mosley himself faced early signs of the disease when he was overweight over a decade ago, weighing 85kg. However, he managed to reverse it, along with his type 2 diabetes, by adopting a radical diet and lifestyle change.

“I expect he probably did [have it] because he was significantly overweight,” Michael said, reflecting on his late father’s struggles with weight and diabetes, never tested for fatty liver disease. 

He further explained, “Eleven years ago, when I discovered that I had type 2 diabetes, I also had a scan that revealed I had early signs of fatty liver disease. Both the diabetes and the fatty liver went away once I went on the 5:2 diet and lost 9kg.”

The Role of Visceral Fat and Lifestyle Choices

Michael Mosley learned about the positive impacts of intermittent fasting, which became known as the 5:2 diet. 

Professor Mark Mattson, an expert in neurosciences, advised him that to reverse diabetes, he needed to lose 5g of fat from the pancreas, requiring a 10% body weight reduction, a feat he successfully accomplished.

According to Mosley, the worst place to have fat is around your abdomen, as abdominal fat infiltrates vital internal organs, including the liver and pancreas. 

These organs regulate blood sugar levels, and when they are affected, health issues can arise. Calorie counting is recommended for those diagnosed with specific conditions, providing a way to shed excess weight for the sake of their health.

Dr. Clare Bailey Mosley, a GP and Michael’s wife, emphasised the seriousness of NAFLD, which is now the most common cause of liver failure. 

“There is a liver function test, but there is not a routine test at all for this disease,” she noted. 

Weight loss is the primary treatment, but since NAFLD often shows no symptoms, it’s usually discovered in people with excess abdominal fat.

A Looming Health Crisis

NAFLD has surpassed alcohol as a leading cause of liver failure, making it a crucial yet undetected health concern. 

While it might not pose problems in its early stages, it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, and even the need for a liver transplant in its chronic phase. Moreover, the fat that accumulates in the wrong places, particularly visceral fat, contributes to inflammation, increasing the risk of heart disease and depression.

Currently, there is no specific medication for NAFLD, but making healthy lifestyle choices can be a significant step towards prevention and recovery. 

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