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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 21:21 EDT

Fitness and Fatty Liver

April 15, 2009

Metabolic syndrome has a new partner in crime. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the latest condition stemming from poor physical fitness and may threaten your health in the same dangerous ways.

Being physically unfit can put you at risk of developing NAFLD ““ a disease that causes the accumulation of fat in the liver, leading to high levels of fat in the blood stream, amplifying the risk-factors of obesity. Like alcohol abuse, NAFLD causes liver damage called fibrosis, which can lead to cirrhosis.

In tests on rats, researchers found those bred to be physically unfit displayed clear symptoms of NAFLD, including poor fat processing power, high fat retention, weakened cell mitochondria and other abnormalities. By the end of their natural lives, the unfit rats sustained significant damage including fibrosis and unexpected cell death. The fit rats, however, had healthy livers throughout their lives.

“Your personal aerobic fitness is not something you will see in the mirror but it is an important predictor of your long-term health,” John Thyfault, Ph.D., the study’s lead author from the University of Missouri in Columbia, was quoted as saying. “The most important part of physical activity is protecting yourself from diseases that can be fatal or play a significant role in increasing the risk factors for other metabolic diseases.”

Researchers say their results suggest NAFLD could potentially be treated or prevented with a suitable exercise program.

SOURCE: The Journal of Physiology, April 15, 2009