Eating fast food is linked to a potentially life-threatening liver condition, a new study has found

Eating fast food is linked to a potentially life-threatening liver condition, a new study has found

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If you needed one more reason to kick that late-night fast food habit, an insightful new study on the negative effects of fast food may provide just that. (Alicia Clark, Alamy)

Estimated reading time: 2-3 minutes

TORONTO — If you needed another reason to kick the late-night McDonald’s habit, a new research study on the negative effects of fast food may provide just that.

Peer review study from Keck Medicine of USC published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that fast food consumption is associated with the potentially life-threatening condition of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“Our findings are particularly concerning because fast food consumption has increased over the past 50 years, regardless of socioeconomic status,” hepatologist and lead study author Annie Kardashian said in a press release.

Study subjects who consumed fast food as a fifth of their daily calories were found to have very high levels of fat in their livers compared to those who consumed less or none at all.

Even those who consume relatively modest amounts of fast food can experience liver damage, the study found.

Researchers analyzed recent data from the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the largest annual survey of nutrition in the U.S., to determine how eating fast food may affect liver steatosis, a condition caused by too much accumulation of fat in the liver.

In the study, fast food was classified as coming from a drive-thru or sit-down restaurant, including pizza.

The researchers compared fatty liver measurements of approximately 4,000 adults in the study to their fast food consumption and found that 52 percent of those evaluated consumed fast food.

Of that group, 29 consumed 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food. This percentage of people were the only ones in the study to show an increase in liver fat levels.

The prevalence of the association between fast food and hepatic steatosis held true for both the general population and those with obesity or diabetes, even after the data were adjusted for other factors such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, alcohol use, and physical activity .

According to Statista, about 29% of Canadian adults aged 18 and over were obese in 2021, and 36% were overweight.

And while there have been other studies linking fast food and obesity, this is the first of its kind to find the effect on liver health, according to Kardashian.

Fat intake should comprise less than 30% of daily calories, and to improve NAFLD, it is essential to consume anti-inflammatory foods rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to another study.

Foods such as avocados, nuts and fish are some of the foods high in these beneficial fatty acids.

The researchers hope these findings encourage healthcare providers to offer patients more dietary education in the future to those at higher risk of developing NAFLD from fast food, such as those with obesity or diabetes

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