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Silent Epidemic: The Rising Tide of Fatty Liver in Kashmir

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By: Dr Shariq Rashid Masoodi and AbrarYousuf Mir

Fatty liver disease is rapidly emerging as a major global health concern, silently affecting a substantial portion of the world’s population. Fatty liver disease, a condition often lacking symptoms, is characterized by the build-up of fat within liver cells. Recent research has indicated a significant rise in the prevalence of fatty liver disease, also known as Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or metabolic (dysfunction)-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) in medical terms.

Presently, NAFLD is a common liver problem affecting about 25% of people worldwide. It is more common in the Middle East and South America and less common in Africa. A more serious form of NAFLD, called NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis), affects about 1.5% to 6.5% of people globally. NASH is expected to become the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver transplants in the future.

Last year, a systematic review of published literature revealed that the combined prevalence of NAFLD in India was 38.6% among adults and 35.4% among children. The prevalence showed similarity between males and females. The authors of this meta-analysis, conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, propose that the prevalence of NAFLD in both urban and rural Indian populations surpasses the globally estimated average of 25%. Alarmingly, three out of five individuals with metabolic syndromes such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia are diagnosed with NAFLD.

A concerning surge in fatty liver disease has been observed in our Kashmir valley in recent years, especially among younger demographics. Its incidence is skyrocketing at an alarming rate. The latest data paints a grim picture. The root cause lies in unhealthy lifestyle choices and an alarming lack of awareness among the general population. Individuals have become ensnared in the pitfalls of a modern lifestyle characterized by inactivity, fostering a sedentary disease that leads to a reduced basal metabolic rate and ultimately, caloric overload.

We Kashmiris tend to be more concerned with curing diseases than preventing them. We often adopt a wait-and-see approach, ignoring minor symptoms and resorting to self-treatment practices until the condition worsens and becomes chronic. “Junk food consumption has become deeply ingrained in our daily lives, especially among children and adolescents. The pervasive habit of sedentary behavior and reduced physical activity is taking a toll on our people’s health. This stark imbalance between calorie intake and calorie expenditure is a major contributing factor to the surge of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in our valley.

Untreated Fatty liver disease can pose a significant threat to life. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis, a condition characterized by liver scarring that can lead to liver failure and even cancer. Currently, there are no medications specifically designed to treat NAFLD. Therefore, most healthcare providers recommend focusing on lifestyle modifications that promote weight loss, such as adopting a healthy diet and incorporating regular exercise into one’s routine. A clinical trial led by Dr. Amy Kim and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine demonstrated that the greater the weight loss achieved, the more significant the improvement in liver health.

Therefore, it is imperative for the general public to embrace a healthy lifestyle. The practice of regular morning and evening walks, coupled with adopting healthy eating habits, should be actively promoted among the community. Individuals should adhere to a calorie-restricted diet that aligns with their body weight and height, ensuring a balance between caloric intake and expenditure. Researchers, physicians, educators, and non-governmental organizations should play a pivotal role in educating the public about the causes and preventive measures of NAFLD, with a goal of flattening the curve of this devastating disease and ultimately eradicating it from our valley.

Dr Shariq Rashid Masoodi is Professor, Department of Endocrinology, School of biological sciences, SKIMS Srinagar. [email protected]

AbrarYousuf Mir is a Student University of Kashmir. [email protected]



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