What have we learned from the SUNN Study?
As members and friends of the Foundation, you know about our efforts to promote early screening for advancing liver disease. We believe it is morally wrong to allow people with advancing liver disease, but with no symptoms, to go untested until they develop stage 4 NASH, otherwise known as cirrhosis. Remember, that is the standard guidance of the medical profession. We believe that end stage liver disease is too late in the process to discover the problem. As a way to advance the argument we sponsored the SUNN Study (Screening for Undiagnosed NAFLD and NASH).
Medicine believes in wellness screening for many diseases but ignores silently advancing liver fibrosis even though it is a growing epidemic. Remember 100 million of us have fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Twenty million of us have steatohepatitis (NASH), its advanced phase. Two to three million people have dangerously advanced disease, stage 3/4 NASH, but just don't know it yet. Official medical guidance has a nicer way of saying it, but as a practical matter, the message from the medical profession is don't bother us with your liver until you get fairly sick.
We have finished the data collection phase of the SUNN Study and we are now working on the report. I thought I'd share a few of the early findings with you. Remember, these people do not have symptoms and have never been told that they have liver disease but they have enough concern to volunteer and go to the trouble of being screened. They were not pre selected by a doctor so they are a patient group currently not available to medical statisticians and can offer a different view of the liver disease crisis facing us.
I'll provide more information as we go along, but I wanted to highlight one of our findings. There is a lot of focus on treatment, but for a society prevention is the most important thing so we wondered what reduced the risk? For people being treated for liver disease it is always diet and exercise but the information provided is frequently vague.
Our results offer some guidance for some minimums to think about. We find that eating non starchy vegetables 3 to 4 times a week reduced your risk of developing fatty liver disease by about 78%. Dieting is hard. Do you think you could make it simple and eat vegetables 4 days a week?
The exercise results were also interesting. Strength training 1 to 2 days a week reduced the risk of developing fatty liver by about a third. Cardio was less helpful. When dealing with the more advanced NASH, however, cardio at least 2 days a week was the winner. We would have to do more study to confirm the difference but the value of exercise is clear.
From this preliminary analysis we would suggest eat your veggies and do 2 days a week of cardio and 2 of strength training. Not a perfect approach but a simple formula that will pay health benefits and will help stop the progression of liver disease for most people if they don't wait too long to be serious about their health.
The worst thing you can do is eat fast food every day. Just sayin.
When the holiday indulging is over think about this simple strategy for starters. You will be healthier for it.