The liver is an organ about the size of a football that sits just under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. The liver is essential for digesting food and ridding your body of toxic substances. Liver disease can be inherited (genetic) or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses and alcohol use. Obesity is also associated with liver damage. Over time, damage to the liver results in scarring (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
Your liver is the largest organ in your body, and it has some equally big responsibilities: filtering the body’s blood, processing nutrients, helping to fight infection, producing proteins you need for blood clotting, and much more. But all these jobs mean your liver is vulnerable to the assault on multiple fronts. If it becomes damaged, scarring (cirrhosis) can occur, which can eventually cause liver failure or cancer.
Obesity is thought to play a role in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects between 80 and 100 million people in the United States and “will soon be the number-one reason for liver transplantation in the U.S.,” says David Bernstein, MD, chief of hepatology at Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York. It happens when too much fat gets stored in liver cells. While experts don’t know exactly what causes NAFLD, the condition is also linked to metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride levels, in addition to obesity.