London: A team of British researchers has found that people with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of serious liver disease than those without the condition.
“We have shown for the first time that type 2 diabetes is an important novel risk factor that increases numbers of hospital admissions and deaths, in people with all common chronic liver diseases," said Chris Byrne, a professor at the University of Southampton.
"Further research is now needed to determine whether all patients with type 2 diabetes should be screened for common chronic liver diseases,” he added.
The team, involving researchers from the universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, examined cases of liver diseases among people with diabetes from anonymised, securely linked hospital records and death records in Scotland over a 10-year period.
They found that most cases of liver disease in people with type 2 diabetes are not alcohol-related but caused by a build-up of fat within liver cells - a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to a the study published recently in the Journal of Hepatology.
NAFLD is commonly linked to obesity, which is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Most people can avoid getting these conditions by following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise.
“Preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by avoiding unhealthy lifestyles in both people with and without diabetes is important because it is difficult to treat the complications of this condition,” said Sarah Wild from the University of Edinburgh.
The research team found that men with type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to suffer from NAFLD than men without diabetes.
There are fewer cases of type 2 diabetes and liver disease amongst women but having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of NAFLD by five times, the study found.
People with NAFLD are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol on the liver and should avoid drinking to avoid further complications, the researchers said.