Functional Iron Deficiency Could be Affecting Individuals With Fatty Liver Disease To Not Exercise
Medical researchers from Edith Cowan University, Australia have found that a chronic disease affecting up to 80 per cent of overweight people may be causing an iron deficiency
that simply leaves them too tired to get off the couch.
The incidence of fatty liver disease
globally is about 25% or 1 of of 4 adults and is often associated with being overweight or obese. If left untreated, it can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and increase the risk of a heart attack.
The main remedy ie to lose weight through diet or exercise
, is often difficult to achieve for affected individuals.
It may not be laziness but lack of iron
which is important for energy production that is stopping people with non-alcoholic liver disease
from addressing their condition.
This new research indicates that people with the condition may be physiologically incapable of exercise
due to iron
not being available for the body to use normally, which is very similar to the effects observed in people who have a true iron deficiency
The study, under the direction of lead researcher Professor Dr John Olynyk, will help guide future treatment for people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The researchers measured the cardiovascular fitness of 848 17-year-old West Australians enrolled in the well known Raine Study and found that those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
had lower physical work capacity independent of their weight. This reduced physical work capacity was also strongly related to parameters suggesting that iron
is not being made available to the body for normal metabolism.
Dr Olynyk said the study showed that people with non-alcoholic-fatty-liver disease
had lower cardiovascular fitness, which was likely caused by a functional iron defici
He told Thailand Medical
News, "We know that an iron deficiency
can cause lethargy and fatigue, making it harder for people to exercise
. What is likely happening is that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
is impeding the body's ability to provide adequate iron
into the blood to fuel processes such as energy and blood cell production. To use an analogy, if you imagine the body as a car and iron
as its fuel, what is likely happening is that there is plenty of iron
, or fuel in the tank, but the non-alcoholic fatty liver
has caused the fuel line to shrink, so there's not enough fuel can get to the engine."
Dr Olynyk said the findings were useful for guiding the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
He added, "The main treatment is lifestyle change aimed at reducing weight, primarily achieved through exercise and a modified diet. In particular, there is evidence published by other investigators in the field that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
. This is because it is high in foods like fruit and vegetables and whole grains, which have anti-inflammatory properties. This research shows that it may be more effective to first focus on new ways to improve the availability of iron
to the body, enabling diet and physical activity to have better and more sustained effects on weight and the severity of their non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Reference: Tim Mitchell et al, Decreased Physical Working Capacity in Adolescents With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Associates With Reduced Iron Availability, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2019.10.017