Research Team Identifies Key NAFLD Prevention Factor
A CDU-led team of researchers have identified high-fructose consumption as a factor in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The research was presented at the annual ENDO 2022 meeting which took place this month in Atlanta, Georgia. The research concludes that high fructose consumption should be avoided to help prevent the development of NAFLD.
NAFLD is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. About 24% of U.S. adults have NAFLD, a chronic disease that can progress to chronic liver damage and lead to cirrhosis, with some patients requiring a liver transplant. This buildup of fat is not caused by heavy alcohol use. Diet and exercise are the standard of care for NAFLD although there are medicines that can treat the disease.
NAFLD prevalence differs by race/ethnicity with Mexican Americans having the highest rate and Blacks having the lowest rate. Studies have suggested that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is likely a risk factor for NAFLD. The team of researchers investigated the associations between fructose consumption and NAFLD, and its distribution by race/ethnicity in the adult US population.
Led by Theodore C. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D. Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at CDU and Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, and using the NHANES 2017-2018 database, they found a connection between fructose consumption and NAFLD that partially explains the racial/ethnic disparities of NAFLD. They also noted that the above average high-fructose corn syrup consumption amongst minority populations could fuel NAFLD-related health outcome disparities.
“NAFLD is a serious problem, and it is increasing in the population. There is a racial/ethnic difference in the prevalence of the NAFLD and how these populations consume high-fructose corn syrup in foods, soft drinks, and other beverages,” noted Dr. Friedman, whose other roles include Lead Physician of Endocrinology at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center.
The research team included researchers from Ohio University and University of Florida. Joining Dr. Friedman from CDU was Dr. Magda Shaheen, Associate Professor for the Internal Medicine department and Director of Research Methods/Statistical Unit and UHI core; Katrina Schrode, Research Manager/Data Analyst for the Psychiatry department; and Dulcie Kermah, Assistant Professor for the College of Medicine.
The team’s abstract of the research, “Fructose Consumption and NAFLD in US Adult Population of NHANES 17-18,” was selected as an oral presentation and a press release as part of the three-day ENDO 2022 in Georgia, which took place this month. The findings of Dr. Friedman and his team were picked up by news outlets and websites across the world. Dr. Friedman was also interviewed for a podcast on his team’s findings that will be available in August 2022.
ENDO’s comprehensive program provides attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the field of Endocrinology from renowned investigators, expert clinicians, and educators from all over the world. The annual event is put on by The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.