Looking to live your best life and keep your liver healthy? You may have heard about fatty liver disease and are wondering how to prevent this common condition.

Fatty liver disease causes include harmful lifestyle choices, such as drinking excessively and eating an unhealthy diet. But it’s not too late to make changes and prevent and even reverse fatty liver disease.

Keep reading to learn about what causes fatty liver disease and how to reduce your chances of developing liver problems.

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

Having fatty liver means that you have too much fat accumulated in your liver. A normal, healthy liver will naturally store some fat. However, for some people, fat will begin to build up in their liver and lead to what is known as fatty liver disease or hepatic steatosis.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease progresses through several stages. When it first develops, there are few symptoms or warning signs to let you know something is amiss. As it progresses to more severe levels and damages the liver tissue, you may experience increasing symptoms.

Sometimes fatty liver disease causes pain in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen. This is caused by inflammation in the liver.

Another symptom that fatty liver disease causes is tiredness. The liver’s job is to convert fats and carbs to energy. As it becomes more inflamed, it cannot do its job well and you don’t have enough energy.

Untreated fatty liver disease causes fibrosis (where there is some scar tissue in the liver) or cirrhosis (where there is advanced scarring of the liver.)

In addition, more advanced fatty liver disease causes jaundice, which is when your skin and eyes turn yellow. Jaundice is one important warning sign that your liver is not working as it should. Other signs include red palms, swollen blood vessels, extreme fatigue, and confusion.

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What Are Fatty Liver Disease Causes?

Scientists are still unsure of exactly what causes fatty liver. But they do know that people who develop it tend to have several things in common. The more of these risk factors a person has, the more likely they will develop fatty liver disease.

So what may cause fatty liver disease?

The leading fatty liver disease causes all cluster around weight, diet, and heart disease risk factors.

Being Overweight or Obese

Being overweight or obese are major fatty liver disease causes. In particular, carrying extra weight around your waist or abdomen puts you at a higher risk of developing fatty liver.

When you are overweight or obese, fat collects in many hidden areas and wraps around and inside certain organs. This includes the liver. And as explained earlier, that is what fatty liver disease is—too much fat building up in the liver.


While there are many different reasons a person may be overweight or obese, our Western diet—full of highly processed foods, red meat, dairy, and sugar—is a big factor. In addition, sugar, trans fats, and high-fat protein from animals cause damage to the liver.

A plant-based diet with protein sources such as fish or lean poultry can not only reduce the risk of directly harming the liver but also help manage your weight—which in turn helps your liver.

Metabolic Syndrome

Some other fatty liver disease causes resulting from your diet may be high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance—collectively known as metabolic syndrome.

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Having high cholesterol—especially high triglyceride levels—can lead to storing more fat in the liver. Type 2 diabetes—another known factor in fatty liver—develops from insulin resistance.

Type 2 Diabetes

The relationship between type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease is complicated, with each leading to the other.

While type 2 diabetes may not directly cause fat to build up in your liver, having type 2 diabetes causes fatty liver disease to progress to a more severe level.

On the other hand, having fatty liver disease increases the chances of type 2 diabetes developing because fatty liver can cause insulin resistance.

Excessive Drinking

Drinking too much alcohol causes fat to build up in the liver. Nearly all heavy drinkers and alcoholics have fatty liver disease, with it progressing to a more severe form in up to 35% of heavy drinkers.

Fat can begin to build up in your liver even with just a few days of heavy drinking, but it is reversible. Cutting out alcohol can bring the fat levels in your liver down to normal ranges.

While many of the fatty liver disease causes stem from unhealthy lifestyle choices, it’s never too late to make changes and reduce your risk—or even reverse fatty liver.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Prevent the Causes of Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease causes are mainly those conditions that develop from poor diets and a lack of exercise. Eating unhealthy foods and not exercising enough lead to being overweight, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes—all contributors to fatty liver disease.

Plant-Based Diet

When faced with the symptoms that fatty liver disease causes, one fundamental lifestyle change is to alter your diet.

Following a plant-based diet—or even going vegan—can improve a variety of unhealthy conditions, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Type 2 diabetes

Most of these conditions are either direct fatty liver disease causes or are found in people who develop fatty liver.

Choose whole and unprocessed organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. A vegan or vegetarian diet, or one such as the Mediterranean diet with small amounts of fish and lean poultry, can improve fatty liver disease and even reverse it.


Exercising regularly can improve your health in so many ways. Exercise helps to manage stress levels and lowers high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Being active can also make it easier to lose weight, which helps to reverse fatty liver. In addition, researchers have found that the more active you are—even if you don’t lose weight—the more you can greatly improve fatty liver disease.

To get the best benefits from exercising, work your way up to being active most days of the week for a total of at least 150 minutes.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you know what causes fatty liver disease, you can take steps to prevent it. By making changes to your diet and losing weight, you can keep fatty liver disease from developing into a more serious problem.

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