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Liver Disease Is on the Rise: Here’s How to Tell If You’re at Risk

Many people are aware that diabetes and obesity are national health epidemics, but the actual numbers are staggering. Thirty-six percent of American adults are obese, and by 2030, this rate is expected to rise to 50 percent.2,3 What those with diabetes and obesity might not realize is that they may be at risk for a serious, yet silent, liver disease. While it is normal for the liver to contain some fat, if left unchecked, liver inflammation can result and develop into something much more serious.4 It’s called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), and it is estimated to affect more than 12 percent of the adult population.5


Fast Facts About NASH

  • As the rate of obesity continues to rise, so too will NASH.8
  • More than 12 percent of the adult population is estimated to be living with NASH.5
  • An estimated more than 90 million American adults are obese, and 33% of them are at risk for NASH.9
  • NASH is now the 2nd most common cause of liver transplant. By 2020, it is expected to be the first.1,10


Over time, NASH can result in serious health complications including liver scarring, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death.4 The exact cause of NASH is unknown but some common risk factors include type 2 diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.6


Liver Disease Is on the Rise - Here's How to Tell If You're at Risk


NASH can be challenging to diagnose as people may experience minimal to no symptoms, so they may not know that anything is wrong with their liver until it is too late. Given this, the disease can progress for years, or even decades, without a diagnosis.7 There are many people out in the world who, because of their risk factors, likely have NASH without knowing it. For these reasons, NASH has become known as the “silent” liver disease, making it important that NASH receives more public attention so people at risk can receive a diagnosis.

While there are no medications currently approved for NASH, the current standard of care includes lifestyle counseling with diet modification and exercise. There are new treatment options being investigated in clinical trials.


Hepatologist Mary Rinella, MD joined me to share more about NASH, including how it is diagnosed, who is most at risk, and how people with NASH can assist in developing more treatment options.

liver disease

Take a listen below.



To learn more about ongoing clinical trials for NASH, visit www.nashstudy.com.


  1. Charlton MR, et al. Frequency and Outcomes of Liver Transplantation for Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis in the United States. Gastroenterology. 2011 Oct;141(4):1249-1253.
  2. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011-2014. National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief. 2015 Nov;(219):1-8.
  3. Wang YC et al. Health and Economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK. The Lancet. 2011 Aug;378(9793):815-25.
  4. Chalasani N, et al. The diagnosis and management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Practice Guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American College of Gastroenterology, and the American Gastroenterological Association. Hepatology. 2012 May;55(6):2005-2023.
  5. Williams CD, Stengel J, Asike MI, et al. Prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis among a largely middle-aged population utilizing ultrasound and liver biopsy: a prospective study. Gastroenterology. 2011 Jan;140(1):124-31.
  6. Adams LA, Feldstein AE. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis: Risk Factors and Diagnosis. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010;4(5):623-635.
  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2014). Fatty Liver Disease (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/nonalcoholic-steatohepatitis/Pages/facts.aspx
  8. Sanyal AJ. NASH: A global health problem. Hepatol Res. 2011 Jul;41(7):670-4.
  9. Intercept Data On File: US-NAS-MED-00013.
  10. Wong RJ, et al. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Is the Second Leading Etiology of Liver Transplant Among Adults Awaiting Liver Transplantation in the United States.Gastroenterology. 2015 Mar;148(3):547-555.

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