Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Causes – Understand What Really Leads To NAFLD, No Alcohol Required

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” (NAFLD) means several liver conditions that can affect people who use little or no alcohol. The fundamental characteristic of NAFLD is excessive fat buildup in liver cells, as the name would imply.

The prevalence of NAFLD is rising worldwide, but especially in Western nations. It affects about 25% of people in the US and is the most common type of chronic liver disease.

What Is Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver?

Some persons with NAFLD may develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a severe form of fatty liver disease characterized by liver inflammation and can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. This harm is comparable to that caused by excessive alcohol use.

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Steatosis, or fatty liver disease, develops when your body stores fat in your liver. Although having some fat in your liver is normal, it may suffer when it makes up more than 10% of its weight.

Frequent alcohol consumption is one of the main causes of fatty liver disease. However, a lot of people get it without drinking excessively. NAFLD stands for non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease.

How Is Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Caused?

Fat accumulation in the liver can result in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a condition in which the liver is constantly inflamed, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

This could gradually harm the liver, eventually leading to tissue scarring (cirrhosis). NAFLD’s specific aetiology is not yet known. However, experts believe several variables may be in play, including:

  • The metabolic syndrome, High BMI, elevated blood lipid levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes all appear connected to related metabolic illnesses, including NAFLD. The way your body metabolizes nutrients and retains fat is affected by a combination of these factors that interact with one another. 
  • Excess fat toxicity: In some individuals, the additional fat in the liver acts as a toxin to the liver cells, causing NASH and liver inflammation, which may lead to the development of scar tissue in the liver. 
  • Other less prevalent conditions: Although obesity, type II diabetes, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance are the diseases that cause NAFLD most frequently, other less prevalent conditions can also contribute to its development. 
  • Obesity, high triglyceride or LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, being overweight or obese, and diabetes or prediabetes are risk factors for NAFLD. 

Who Is Affected By Non-alcohol-related Fatty Liver Disease?

It can have an impact on people of all ages and races. Persons of Hispanic heritage are more likely to experience it than Black people. Diabetes, obesity, and middle age are also frequently linked to NAFLD.

For instance, up to 90% of individuals with severe or class III obesity and 75% of those with obesity or diabetes also have NAFLD.

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Signs & Symptoms Of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcohol-related steatohepatitis, or NASH, usually progresses before symptoms start to show. Your upper right abdomen, where your liver is located, may become uncomfortable and swollen due to NASH. The onset of symptoms, however, might not happen until NASH has progressed to a more serious liver condition. Only the NAFLD sets the scene.

In the early stages of NAFLD, there typically aren’t any symptoms. If tests aren’t done for another reason, it’s unlikely that you’ll find out you have it.

In rare cases, persons with NASH or fibrosis (more severe disease stages) may encounter:

  • A dull or sharp pain across the lower right side of the rib cage at the top right corner of the stomach
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness due to unexpected weight loss
  • More serious symptoms include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin, itchy skin, and swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.
  • Abdomen can appear if cirrhosis, the most advanced stage, develops.

What Makes A Non-drinker Develop A Fatty Liver?

There isn’t any proven answer to this question. However, experts believe several factors are at play, including:

The syndrome is metabolic

A range of associated metabolic illnesses, including high BMI, high blood lipid levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes, appear connected to non-alcohol-induced fatty liver disease. These elements interact and affect one another, making overall adjustments to how your body processes food and stores fat.

Nutritional reasons and diet

According to research, a high-fructose diet may raise your chance of developing NAFLD. Fructose is the main component of high fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener, and one of the constituents of regular table sugar. It has a strong connection to metabolic syndrome.


You may be more likely to develop NAFLD if you have certain genes. This may aid in illuminating why some people develop it without any other typical risk factors. It also sheds light on why some racial groups experience it more frequently.

How Is Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Diagnosed?

To diagnose nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), doctors consult your medical history, perform a physical examination, and order testing. To identify NAFLD and distinguish between nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), doctors may utilize blood testing, imaging studies, and liver biopsies.

Treatment Options For Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver

To treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), doctors often advise patients to lose weight. Weight loss helps lessen liver fibrosis, inflammation, and fat. NAFLD and NASH have neither been approved or any medications.

Consume A Balanced Diet

High in fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates while low in fat, sugar, and salt. Eating less food can also be beneficial.

➜ Regular exercise

Aim to complete 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling. Any exercise, even if you don’t lose weight, can help improve NAFLD.

➜ Quit smoking

Doing so can help lower your risk of developing issues like heart attacks and strokes.

Although alcohol doesn’t cause NAFLD, it can make it worse. Therefore, it is advised to reduce or stop drinking alcohol. Read some advice on reducing alcohol consumption.


When fat builds up in the liver, a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can develop, which can cause inflammation and liver damage. Although the precise origin of NAFLD is unknown, patients with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, and age in the middle or older are more likely to develop the condition. 

In the absence of heavy alcohol consumption or other confounding factors, NAFLD is diagnosed by the presence of hepatic steatosis on imaging or histology.

Simple hepatic steatosis, steatohepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis are all possible manifestations of NAFLD. Cirrhosis can result from both alcoholic fatty liver disease and one kind of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis).


About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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