Fatty liver unrelated to alcoholism raises the chance of the sufferer developing Type 2 diabetes. According to scientists at the University of Barcelona and various other research institutions in Spain, measuring the amount of fatty liver damage could be a new way of predicting who is at risk. Their discovery was announced in the online journal PLOS ONE in June 2018.

The researchers used a measure called the Fatty Liver Index (FLI). The Fatty Liver Index was devised at the University of Trieste in Italy and announced in the journal BMC Gastroenterology in 2006. The formula for calculating the index is based on …

  • body mass index (BMI),
  • waist measurement,
  • blood fats, and
  • liver enzymes.

An FLI below 30 means having a fatty liver is highly undesirable and an FLI of at least 60 means it is highly probable. They calculated the FLI for 1142 adults with predatives, predicting which ones were at risk for developing full-blown Type 2 diabetes within the following three years.

By the end of the study …

  • participants with an FLI below 30 had the lowest incidence of Type 2 diabetes,
  • individuals with a FLI between 30 and 60 had a higher rate, and
  • those with an FLI of 60 or over had the highest prevalence.

The participants with an FLI of at least 60 had almost five times the rate of developing Type 2 diabetes as those with the lowest FLI reading.

From the above information, it was concluded that the FLI could have been used to predict the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes early. That prediction could be used to alert individuals and their doctor so that they can take action to prevent development or progress of the condition.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually has no signs or symptoms, but can cause fatigue, pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, and an enlarged liver. As the disease progresses, the following can be seen …

  • abdominal swelling with fluid,
  • yellowed skin and whites of the eyes – jaundice,
  • enlarged blood vessels just below the skin in a spidery pattern,
  • an enlarged spleen – left upper part of the abdomen, and
  • reddened palms of the hands.

Causes include …

  • being overweight or obese,
  • insulin resistance – the cause of Type 2 diabetes,
  • high blood sugar levels,
  • high levels of blood fats.

Treatment is aimed at …

  • normalizing weight if necessary,
  • increasing insulin sensitivity, and
  • bringing blood sugar readings down to a healthy level.

A low-calorie diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, coupled with regular physical activity, makes for a healthy liver and a low risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.