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Fatty Liver Symptoms: Key Signs To Recognize

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects as many as one in three adults and one in 10 children and is the leading cause of liver transplants worldwide.

    Oftentimes, there are no symptoms associated with NAFLD until the disease has progressed.

    Taking a supplement like fatty15 can help support liver function, protect liver cells against oxidative stress, and even decrease tissue fibrosis relevant to liver health. 

Scary fact? If you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), you probably won’t know it. A chronic illness with few (if any) early symptoms, the occurrences of NAFLD in the worldwide population have skyrocketed in the last decade. 

That brings up two important questions: why are our livers suffering, and what can we do about it? We’ll answer those and give you some key symptoms and signs your liver may be suffering. Early detection is key to managing fatty liver disease and protecting your longevity.

What Is NAFLD?

There are two types of fatty liver disease: NAFLD and alcoholic fatty liver disease. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, which leads to excess fat cells collecting in the liver. 

NAFLD is a condition that involves excess fat stored in the liver, but this condition occurs in people who drink little to no alcohol. Scientists aren’t yet certain what causes excess fat to become stored in some people’s livers and not others, but NAFLD is often associated with:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes
  • Genetics
  • High triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Metabolic syndrome 
  • Being of Hispanic-American descent

A buildup of fat in the liver that goes unchecked can lead to scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis, which can eventually lead to other health conditions, including liver cancer. 

Why Are Our Livers Unhealthy?

It’s complicated. While genetic factors play a role, being genetically predisposed doesn’t mean you’ll get fatty liver disease. And, even though being overweight is considered a major risk factor, not everyone who is overweight will get fatty liver disease. 

Our liver health has been on the decline for several decades, and simultaneously, our diets have progressively swayed from whole foods to more processed convenience foods that contain ingredients our livers don’t like. 

For instance, in the 1980s, manufacturers began to add high fructose corn syrup to soft drinks. The liver uses excess fructose to create fat through a process known as lipogenesis. A study published in Nature Metabolism found that consumption of large amounts of fructose is directly linked to NAFLD.

Dietary Guidelines Could Also Be To Blame

Another concern? Failed dietary guidelines. In the 1970s, heart disease was the number one killer of Americans. 

The government issued dietary guidelines advising Americans to avoid fat — all fat — to protect their heart health. For the next 20 years, we’d experience a four-fold decrease in fat intake. We switched from whole milk to skim and were given other low-fat alternatives. 

An entire generation later, we now know it didn’t work. Heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans, and on top of it all, we are now experiencing a huge decline in liver health in both adults and children, coupled with an increase in type 2 diabetes (in both children and adults). 

We eliminated fat, but we didn’t eliminate the problem. Instead, our health problems worsened. 

What Are the Symptoms of NASH?

Fatty liver disease has very few symptoms, especially in the beginning. As NAFLD progresses into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen 
  • Yellowing of the skin (known as jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite and/or nausea
  • Rapid weight loss

These symptoms usually only appear after the disease has progressed. Getting an early diagnosis can help you prevent further liver damage. Although there is no cure for NAFLD, you can manage symptoms with lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments. 

How Do Doctors Test for NAFLD?

You’ll need a blood test to determine whether you are at risk of developing or already have NAFLD. A routine blood panel can show whether or not your liver enzymes are elevated. If so, your doctor may order additional tests.

Testing for NAFLD and NASH can include:

  • A physical exam to determine if the liver is enlarged.

  • Imaging tests, like CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds. These tests can’t show, however, can’t show your healthcare provider whether or not you have liver inflammation or fibrosis. 

Elastography, also known as FibroScan, is a new imaging procedure that can help your doctor determine if you have liver fibrosis and measure changes in your liver from one scan to the next. 

Ultimately, if your doctor suspects you have NAFL and wants to determine if it has progressed to NASH, you’ll need a liver biopsy. 

What Can I Do To Support Liver Health?

Supporting your liver health and reducing your risk of developing NAFLD requires a closer look at your overall health, making some adjustments where needed.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Even though your weight isn’t the ultimate predictor of whether or not you’ll develop fatty liver disease, it’s a good indicator. Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your liver and also good for your overall health. 

Doctors often measure your weight by assessing your body mass index, or BMI. Having a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is typically considered overweight, while a BMI of 30+ is considered obese. If you’re overweight, taking steps to lose weight can help support your healthy liver goals.

Eat a Healthy Diet

We know. It’s confusing. There’s a lot of misinformation about diets and food; making the right choices can feel impossible. 

Choosing less processed foods and avoiding soft drinks is a great place to start. Adding in fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can help you get plenty of fiber and nutrients, but that still doesn’t answer the question about fat. 

Fat and Your Liver

It may seem counterintuitive to consider eating fat to support your liver health, but science says that's not exactly right. We now know that not all fat is bad. In fact, some fat is essential, which means our bodies need it to survive but can’t make it on their own. 

Examples of Fats

Most frequently, “bad” fats are considered trans fats, which are made from liquid fats turned into solids. While there are some trans fats found in trace amounts in animal protein, they’re also found in processed foods. 

Even though trans fats have been banned in the US since 2020, they often occur in small amounts due to manufacturing and processing. The only way to truly avoid them is to avoid processed foods. 

That brings us to saturated fats. Although we’ve been told that saturated fats are all bad, science says that isn’t the case. A new class of odd-chain saturated fats has been discovered that studies link to increased health benefits. 

One such fat is C15:0, also known as pentadecanoic acid. 

Understanding C15:0 and Your Liver 

C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that an extensive series of studies shows is essential and able to help support your body from the cells up, providing improved cellular resilience, mitochondrial function, metabolism support, immune support, and even support for mood, sleep, and appetite. 

Tell Me More

C15:0 was discovered by a team of researchers studying longevity in dolphins. Some dolphins had fewer occurrences of age-related illnesses, and the researchers discovered that these dolphins had a higher circulating level of C15:0 in their bloodstream. 

They took their research further and eventually published it in Nature’s Scientific Reports in 2020. Additional studies of this fatty acid showed that daily supplementation promoted healthy glucose and cholesterol levels and healthy liver and red blood cell function in relevant models. 

Importantly, dozens of large-scale population studies have linked C15:0 to better metabolic and heart health in humans.

What About C15:0 and Liver Health?

Higher circulating levels of C15:0 have been demonstrated with protection against liver damage in relevant models. C15:0 also has 36+ dose-dependent benefits when studied in human cell systems and compared with another popular fatty acid, omega-3. 

These benefits include calming immune responses and decreasing tissue fibrosis relevant to liver health. C15:0 also protects cell membranes, including liver cells, against oxidative stress. 

By binding to PPAR receptors, C15:0 also helps regulate functions like metabolism and helps calm liver immune responses. 

But Wait, There’s More

C15:0 isn’t just beneficial for your liver. It’s beneficial for every cell in your body, from your neurons to your skin cells. 

  • C15:0 helps clear damaged cells which can lead to inflammation, and helps calm and lower proinflammatory cytokines, a key driver in the aging process.

  • C15:0 helps repair broken energy pathways by helping decrease reactive oxygen species and increase ATP (energy). In one peer-reviewed study, C15:0 was shown to increase ATP levels in cells by 350%.

  • By activating AMPK, C15:0 helps restore homeostasis, or balance, to your body, helps regulate glucose uptake, and calms your immune system. 

These studies show that C15:0 is not only associated with better liver health but that it actively works at the cellular level to protect our liver. 

Great! Give Me Some C15:0!

Here’s the catch: C15:0 is found primarily in whole-fat dairy products. This is a two-fold problem. 

One, increasing your intake of whole dairy products would mean consuming more calories and unhealthy, even-chain saturated fat. Two, it involves cows, making it less vegan-friendly and less sustainable. 

A solution? Fatty15.

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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Fatty15: The C15:0 Supplement 

Fatty15 is the world’s first and only pure C15:0 supplement, which was developed by doctors and scientists to support your long-term health. Fatty15 contains only a single ingredient: a pure, bioavailable, sustainable, vegan-friendly C15:0 powder.

Whole-fat dairy products provide a wallop of calories, including sugars (aka lactose), that also require cows. The calories in whole-fat milk likely explain why a large-scale recent study showed that adults who drink more dairy milk are more likely to have a higher body weight. 

Further, the movement to more plant-based milk and meat replacements is driven by a desire for more animal-free products and to veer from cows and cattle because of concerns around methane production. 

Interestingly, plant-based milk replacements lack C15:0 altogether. Fatty15 offers a vegan-friendly C15:0, with only one calorie per dose.

Support Your Liver, With Fatty15

Fatty liver disease is common, but that doesn’t mean you’ll develop it. If you do, you can manage symptoms with lifestyle changes and support your liver health by taking once daily fatty15. 

You’ve got a lot more life to live, and you need your liver to live it. Fatty15 helps you sustain and improve your longevity by protecting your cells, including your liver cells, so you can lead a longer, healthier life. 

Sources:

Articles The prevalence and incidence of NAFLD worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis

The Gut Shields the Liver from Fructose-Induced Damage - Penn Medicine

The Small Intestine Shields the Liver from Fructose-Induced Steatosis | Nature Metabolism

Diagnosis of NAFLD & NASH - NIDDK

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease

Dairy consumption and overweight and obesity: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies - Louie - 2011

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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