The prevalence of liver disease in Hispanic populations is a growing concern. Chronic liver disease is a leading cause of death overall in Hispanic populations. Recent studies show Hispanics are twice as likely to die from liver disease than non-Hispanic white populations. What we are still learning about is the “why.” Is liver disease hereditary, or are other factors contributing to it? The simple answer to both is yes. Reducing the disproportion starts with knowing the factors that contribute to developing liver disease.
Liver Diseases Dominant in Hispanics
The most common liver diseases Hispanics face include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), liver disease (AFLD), cirrhosis, and liver cancer. These exist under the umbrella of fatty liver disease. It occurs when there is an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver. When left untreated, fatty liver disease can continue advancing to more severe forms of the disease (such as NASH) that cause damage to the liver until it’s unable to perform the vital functions which sustain our lives.
In general, any individual, regardless of race, is more likely to develop fatty liver disease if they have the following risk factors:
- Are obese
- Consume a diet high in carbs, added sugar, and saturated fats
- Have metabolic syndrome (group of conditions occurring together such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes)
- Are not physically active
- Abuse alcohol
If you look into how often these factors occur in Hispanic individuals, the picture becomes more evident.
- 43% of Hispanics are categorized as obese in the U.S.
- 35% of Hispanics have metabolic syndrome in the U.S.
- Alcohol-related liver disease in Hispanics is 16% higher than in other ethnic groups. While Hispanics are less likely to abuse alcohol, they consume higher volumes when they do. They are also 33% more likely to have recurring health problems related to drinking.
There are liver diseases that are inherited, but none show dominance in Hispanics. Nonetheless, mounting research supports the role of one such gene that promotes fat accumulation in the liver and increases the risk of liver disease. This gene responsible is a variant of genotype PNPLA3. Hispanics tend to possess this gene variation more often than other ethnicities.
Beating the Odds Through Research
Early interventions addressing the risk factors for liver disease and prevention methods are essential in reducing the disproportion in Hispanics of all ages. Thanks to past, present, and future research efforts, potential new options are being evaluated in research studies. Each shows promise in the continuing endeavors to improve patients’ lives with liver diseases such as NASH and NAFLD. South Texas Research Institute is dedicated to creating awareness about liver diseases and advancing therapies for patients.
Take control of your liver health today by scheduling your FREE fibroscan for adults at risk of liver disease. Or browse our currently enrolling studies for individuals with NASH and NAFLD. Call us at (956) 284-6353 or visit our website to learn more.