Diabetes And Fatty Liver: Causes & Treatment Process

By Medical Expert Team

Apr 24 , 2023 | 3 min read

Suffering from diabetes? Give extra attention to your liver. Diabetes is a major risk factor for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)—a range of liver conditions, affecting individuals despite little or no alcohol consumption.

NAFLD causes fat buildup in the liver, resulting in its enlargement, inflammation or even scarring of different levels. If left untreated, the condition may cause liver cirrhosis, requiring liver transplant. Most importantly, almost half the people with type 2 diabetes develop fatty liver disease.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver does not cause any noticeable symptoms. There are chances that you may feel tired or complain of mild discomfort or pain in the upper right side of your abdomen.

If left untreated, fatty liver may progress to liver scarring or liver fibrosis. Severe liver fibrosis leads to cirrhosis. Symptoms of liver cirrhosis include loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, nose bleeds, yellowish discolouration of skin and eyes, abdominal pain and swelling, swelling of your legs, confusion, and itchy skin.

Causes of Fatty Liver Disease

The fatty liver disease develops due to the production of excessive fat in your body or decreased efficiency in the metabolization of fats. This excess fat gets stored in your body’s liver cells leading to fatty liver disease.

The following factors play a major role in the development of fatty liver -

  • Obesity
  • High blood sugar
  • Raised cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood
  • Insulin resistance
  • Certain genes and other types of infections like hepatitis C

Fatty Liver Disease & Diabetes

Diabetes is not the only cause of fatty liver disease. But if you have diabetes, you are sure to develop the fatty liver disease as well. The two diseases tend to occur together in some people owing to their obesity and insulin resistance. Hence if you are a prediabetic person or an individual with diabetes, it is absolutely necessary to keep your blood sugar levels under control. This will help prevent the complications of fatty liver disease and maintain your overall health.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease

There is no medication that can be used to treat fatty liver disease. Lifestyle changes and dietary modifications can help reverse the condition.

Follow these auxiliary measures to help reduce your risk of fatty liver disease.

  1. Limit or avoid alcohol completely

Alcohol is directly linked to increase in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Avoiding alcohol will help regulate your blood sugar levels, thereby reducing your risk of fatty liver disease.

  1. Lose weight

Obesity is a major risk factor for fatty liver disease. Lose weight to maintain a healthy life and to lower your chances of developing the condition. Exercise regularly by going for daily walks; some form of basic yoga or physical activity will help you stay fit and healthy. Try to achieve a minimum of 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day to boost your metabolism.

  1. Dietary changes

Making changes to your daily diet will help you lose weight and remain fit. This will help you lead a healthy lifestyle which is absolutely necessary to keep fatty liver disease away. Avoid foods and drinks high in fructose like artificially sweetened sodas, juices, pastries, desserts. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, and fresh foods in your diet. Limit your fat intake to nuts and healthy oils like olive oil. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates like white rice, sweets, white bread, processed grains, and refined grain products. Avoid trans fats and reduce your consumption of saturated fats.

  1. Control blood sugar levels

If you are diabetic, you need to keep your blood sugar levels under check in order to avoid fatty liver disease and its complications. Good control over your blood sugar levels can be achieved by dietary modifications, daily exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Regulate blood cholesterol levels

Maintain your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides under normal levels to keep fatty liver disease at bay. These are a type of blood fat that can go settle in the liver when in excess. To prevent your blood cholesterol from increasing, you need to avoid fried and fatty foods, start exercising and eat healthy.

Prevention of Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease and diabetes go hand-in-hand. In order to conquer one disease, you need to tackle the other as well. Obesity and high sugar levels paired with insulin resistance can increase your risk of developing fatty liver disease. Hence your target should be to maintain a healthy weight by losing weight if you are obese or overweight. Exercise regularly and control your blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels to protect yourself against the dreadful combination of diabetes and fatty liver disease.


Medically Reviewed

Dr. Chetan Kalal (Program Director - Hepatology & Transplant Medicine, Centre for Liver, Pancreas & Intestine Transplantation)

Dr. Chetan Kalal is Program Director - Hepatology & Transplant Medicine, Centre for Liver, Pancreas & Intestine Transplantation, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital. Being India's first DM, Hepatology and Transplant Medicine, Dr Kalal is considered one of country's foremost experts in management of liver, pancreas and intestine.  

Written and Verified by:

Medical Expert Team