The London Clinic through its Liver Centre provides access to the latest developments in the diagnosis and treatment of liver disease.

The outpatient facilities are based on the fourth floor of 116 Harley Street, where you will find rooms for consultants and for the liver clinical fellows and nurse specialist.

What is fatty liver disease?

Alcohol is a major cause of liver problems but non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming more common. This type of fatty liver disease is often associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity and is a lifestyle disease.

According to the British Liver Trust, one in 5 people in the UK are in the early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is becoming common in all areas of the world in which a high calorie diet and lack of exercise is combining to increase obesity.

What causes fatty liver disease?

Poor diet and too much alcohol can cause a build-up of fats, called triglycerides, in the liver. Although the body needs some fats for energy and cell growth, excess levels over a long period of time can cause inflammation in the liver. This leads to a well-known sequence of events:

  • Steatosis: fat droplets accumulate in the liver cells, causing inflammation
  • Inflammation: this worsens over time if the fatty diet and alcohol consumption continue, or if body weight increases.
  • Fibrosis: scar tissue forms as the liver tries to heal areas of inflammation
  • Cirrhosis: permanent scarring of the liver, which can lead to liver failure
  • Liver cancer

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also characterised by high levels of insulin in the blood. Although there is plenty of insulin available, the body’s cells become resistant to its action, and fail to take up glucose. Insulin resistance is one of the first steps towards type 2 diabetes.

Can I avoid fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver disease becomes more likely with age but key lifestyle factors increase risk. To minimise that risk:

  • Maintain a normal, healthy weight, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25. This involves controlling what you eat, how much you eat, and doing regular exercise
  • Reduce the amount of fat in your diet. Even people of normal weight who eat high fat foods can develop a fatty liver
  • Cut down on fatty food and drink within recommended daily limits – 2 to 3 units for a woman and 3 to 4 for a man

How is fatty liver disease detected?

The gold standard method of diagnosing fatty liver disease is by liver biopsy. The cells of the liver are examined under a microscope, and characteristic fatty changes can be seen.

However, more liver experts today rely on ultrasound technology and imaging to detect the signs of fatty liver disease.
Ultrasound is a good non-invasive method of detecting fatty liver disease. Normally, the liver appears dark on an ultrasound but if fatty deposits start to build up in the liver cells, it starts to look brighter. Many hepatologists use the right kidney as a reference point. The kidneys are usually brighter on an ultrasound scan but if the liver is as bright as the right kidney, this strongly suggests fatty liver disease.

MRI techniques can also be used to measure the amount of fat in the liver with greater accuracy.

Making an enquiry

To make a confidential enquiry or appointment about fatty liver disease please call 020 7616 7719 or click here to complete the online form.