Being a couch potato or working for long hours while tied to your chair is definitely no fun. A new study suggests that it increases your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Prolonged sitting has already been previously associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The Korean study, which is now available in Journal of Hepatology, examined the health of more than 135,000 middle-aged Korean men and women from March 2011 to December 2013. The information about their sitting time was derived from a short-form questionnaire that inquired about their level of physical activity. In order to determine whether they had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the team used ultrasound.
Based on the results, over 38,000 of the participants developed the disease, and both prolonged sitting and a generally sedentary lifestyle are strongly associated with the disease occurrence. In fact, the disease is prominent even for those who had a body mass index of lower than 23, which indicated they were of normal body weight.
NAFLD is a term used for the accumulation of fat cells on the liver, which should have no to little fat. During the early stages of the disease, the person may not feel any symptom and may not know it unless he goes through a series of liver panel tests.
However, when left untreated, the fat cells will lead to serious liver inflammation, causing scarring or cirrhosis of the liver. It can therefore significantly reduce the function of the organ, and once the liver has become cirrhotic, the damage is already irreversible. The only option is to prevent it from progressing further.
According to the Korean researchers, by reducing sitting time and increasing the level and quantity of physical activity, the risk may be reduced. A previous study had already pointed out that it doesn't matter how vigorous or long you exercise. It doesn't have any effect if you continue to sit for a long time.