In a study from the University of Southern California, scientists found eating fast food may harm liver health.
They found people with obesity or diabetes who got 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food had strongly increased levels of fat in their liver compared to those who ate less fast food or none.
They suggest healthy livers contain a small amount of fat, usually less than 5%, and even a moderate increase in fat can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
In the study, the team used data from a nationwide health and nutrition survey conducted in 2017 and 2018 to determine the impact of fast-food consumption on fatty liver disease, also called liver steatosis.
The condition can cause cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver, and potentially lead to cancer or liver failure.
Fast food and pizza from either a drive-through restaurant or one without wait staff were included in the analysis.
The team compared fast-food consumption with fatty liver measurements in 4,000 adults.
They found about 52% consumed some fast food. Of those, 29% got at least one-fifth of their daily calories from fast food. About 29% had a rise in liver fat levels.
These findings are particularly alarming as fast-food consumption has gone up in the last 50 years.
Researchers have also seen a substantial surge in fast-food dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is probably related to the decline in full-service restaurant dining and rising rates of food insecurity.
The team says the severe rise in liver fat in those with obesity or diabetes is especially striking, and probably due to the fact that these conditions cause a greater susceptibility for fat to build up in the liver.
This is one of the first studies to demonstrate the negative impact of fast food on liver health. Even a relatively modest amount can be harmful.
For more information about liver health, please see recent studies about all types of coffee could help lower the risk of chronic liver disease and results showing that Whole grains could benefit people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The study was conducted by Dr. Ani Kardashian et al and published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
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