A team of South Korean researchers led by Dr. Seungho Ryu found that those who sat for ten hours straight or more were at greater risk for developing fatty liver disease.
Health experts all agree that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to chronic problems in the future, especially when coupled with unhealthy diet.
Ryu and his team back this up further with their findings on a sample of 140,000 Koreans who had health examinations from March 2011 to December 2013. Based on data gathered including physical activity and fatty liver changes, around 40,000 of the participants had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which the team associated with increased sitting time.
"We found that prolonged sitting time and decreased physical activity level were positively associated with the prevalence of NAFLD in a large sample of middle-aged Koreans," said Ryu.
The findings also have their impact in western countries. In the U.S., one out of nearly every ten children has NAFLD despite not showing symptoms. This is thought to be due to the rising rate of obesity in the U.S. population. Obesity, as well as high cholesterol and diabetes, are common causes of NAFLD.
"The message is clear, our chairs are slowly but surely killing us," said Professor Michael Trenell of the Newcastle University Metabolism & Lifestyle Medicine Department. "Our body is designed to move and it is not surprising that sedentary behavior, characterized by low muscle activity, has a direct impact on physiology. With a dearth of approved drug therapies for NAFLD, lifestyle changes remain the cornerstone of clinical care. The challenge for us now is to 'stand up' and move for NAFLD, both physically and metaphorically."
Researchers have concluded that increased physical activity and reducing sitting time can help prevent NAFLD.
"The amount of time spent doing sedentary activity such as sitting at a computer or watching TV has increased dramatically in recent years," Ryu explained. "More than half of the average person's waking day involves sedentary activities."
NAFLD is a form of fatty liver disease, one of the most common liver diseases. It occurs when fat is accumulated in the liver, causing inflammation, damage and scarring. While some patients can go for long without showing symptoms, others may manifest abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue and weight loss. Fatty liver can also lead to other liver conditions like Hepatitis. Since there is no definite way to treat NAFLD, doctors usually recommend lifestyle changes based on risk factors, drugs and surgery to relieve symptoms, remove dead liver tissue or prevent further liver problems.
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