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Doctors see epidemic of fatty liver disease

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Think of all the ways that being overweight or obese can hurt you, and you probably don't think about your liver. But liver specialists say there is an emerging epidemic of liver disease related to fat. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common liver disease, and it can kill. It nearly took the life of one woman from Peculiar, Missouri.

fatty liver

Medsker at 260 lbs.

Marla Medsker says she ate whatever she liked, and the scales rose to 260 pounds. It's an all-too-common American story.

"People just need to realize how much they're damaging their health. Especially where mine was fatty tissue that caused my damage," said Medsker.

She had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

"The liver cells fill up so much with fat that they balloon and blow up," said Dr. Richard Gilroy, a liver specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis which is scarring of the liver. It can also result in liver cancer.

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who may have this disease," said Dr. Gilroy.

Medsker found out she had it when she had terrible fatigue and nausea. She was in liver failure. She spent much of last year in the hospital. Toxins filled her brain in the final stage of disease.

"I got to where I didn't know who I was or where I was," said Medsker.

A liver transplant last November saved Medsker's life. But Dr. Gilroy says the number of livers available for transplant is limited now because so many Americans have fatty livers and can't donate.

"So really the entire population must change. Everyone needs to be looking at weight loss as an opportunity," he said.


Medsker nearly 100 lbs. lighter

Medsker had to lose some weight in order to get a transplant. She's lost more since -- nearly 100 pounds altogether.

"I would say if you can change your diet or the way your lifestyle is, change it because it can happen to you," she said.

Change it, she says, before fat kills you.

The doctor says there is no good screening tool for the general population. The disease is often found incidentally when people are being checked for other conditions.

He adds that there are no good medications to treat it. The cornerstone of treatment is weight loss.

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  • Dave

    I was wondering why they were eliminating physical education and recess from schools (please note sarcasm here). Parents need to put away the video games, turn off the TV, and tell the kids to go out and play. They also need to set a better example – kids will do what they see their parents doing, not necessarily what their parents tell them to do. Just for the record, I always did what my parents told me to do. :)

  • David Blume

    We have seen a lot of this in our office and the best option for treatment is diet, exercise and good premium supplements. Hepatiben & Red Palm Oil from seems to works the best. This treatment has lowered blood glucose and liver enzymes levels and our patients have lost a good amount of weight. This is an epidemic and it has many causes. Not the least of which process food and HFCS consumption.

  • Lynn

    I have recently been diagnosed with this disease and I was really scared, as I have just turned 30. Apparently, some people suggest that you can reverse fatty liver with the right diet and lifestyle changes and this is what I hope to be able to do it, and I started tracking my progress and sharing all my findings with other people. This is not something to take lightly, as many people seem to nowadays since it’s becoming such a widespread disease.