Many middle-aged people have this dangerous liver disease without knowing it

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In a recent study at Boston University, researchers found that many middle-aged people from the Framingham Heart Study had strong liver fibrosis (scarring).

The study is published in Hepatology. One author is Michelle T. Long, M.D, Msc.

Before this research, researchers did not know how common asymptomatic liver fibrosis (scarring) was among adults.

In the study, more than 3,000 middle-aged participants (over a three-year period) underwent a test called a Fibroscan that quantifies how much fat is in the liver and also measures the stiffness of the liver.

Liver stiffness correlates with the degree of liver scarring.

The researchers found that liver fibrosis was linked to more adverse cardio-metabolic risk factors, even after accounting for liver fat which is a known risk factor for the disease.

In particular, they found that about one-quarter of the participants with diabetes had evidence of possibly clinically significant liver fibrosis.

According to the researchers, these findings support the consideration of screening for liver fibrosis in high-risk groups, though additional studies are needed to determine the benefits/costs of screening.

If liver fibrosis is identified early, before cirrhosis is established, it is treatable.

The team believes greater recognition of and awareness of liver fibrosis as a consequence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will hopefully allow more patients to receive treatment to prevent complications of advanced liver disease.

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