A quick guide to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Written by: Dr Jude A. Oben
Edited by: Conor Dunworth

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a liver condition that affects millions of people globally. In his latest online article, renowned consultant gastroenterologist Dr Jude A. Oben offers his expert insight into this condition, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.


What exactly is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a liver condition caused by factors other than alcohol consumption. Originally labelled "non-alcoholic" in the 1980s, the term was coined because patients were developing liver disease without alcohol consumption. Initially known as cryptogenic, it was later understood to share features with alcoholic liver disease, yet occurred in individuals who did not consume alcohol.


What are the main symptoms?

The disease typically manifests no symptoms until it progresses significantly, making it a silent threat. This characteristic concerningly delays detection, often leading to advanced liver scarring before diagnosis.

Recently, I met with local general practitioners after observing numerous patients presenting with severe liver damage, emphasising the importance of proactive screening by healthcare providers to identify abnormalities in liver function tests and prompt referral to specialists.


What are the main causes?

Insulin resistance primarily underpins non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, with obesity being a major contributor. Patients with obesity or overweight status face a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which in turn increases susceptibility to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The interconnectedness of these conditions forms a cluster known as metabolic syndrome, further amplifying the risk. Thus, awareness of these risk factors is crucial for early intervention.


What are the most effective treatment options?

Currently, addressing the core issue of metabolic syndrome offers the most effective approach. This entails weight reduction strategies to mitigate obesity and associated conditions.

Failure to address the condition may culminate in liver failure, necessitating liver transplantation—a limited resource. Consequently, efforts to reduce the prevalence of metabolic syndrome are imperative, as no specific treatments for the disease exist apart from addressing its underlying metabolic factors.



Dr Jude A. Oben is a renowned consultant gastroenterologist based in London. If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Oben, you can do so today via his Top Doctors profile. 

By Dr Jude A. Oben

Dr Jude Oben is a leading consultant gastroenterologist in London who also specialises in hepatology (liver medicine). His areas of interests across both specialties include endoscopy, obesity, abnormal liver function tests, Intra-gastric balloon, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

Dr Oben has a PhD in Pharmacology from University College London. He studied Medicine at Oxford with a period at Stanford University, Palo Alto, USA, as a research fellow in Immunology. After Oxford, his initial Postgraduate Medical training was at the Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London, followed by training in Ophthalmology (Eye Surgery). During his specialist medical registrar training, he re-oriented his research career with two years as a postdoctoral fellow at John Hopkins University, USA.

At Johns Hopkins, Dr Oben combined his previous interest in neuroscience with liver medicine and with a particular focus on obesity-related liver disease. After his time at John Hopkins, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in London to start independent research at University College London. He is currently an Associate Professor in Hepatology at University College London, Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, Royal Free Hospital, London.

Dr Oben is a co-founder and Trustee of the Obesity Action launched at the House of Lords. The primary aim of Obesity Action is to raise political and public awareness of obesity and it’s health consequences. He is an invited member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity.

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