Lack of understanding of fatty liver disease in Taiwan reveals opportunity for supplement and functional food firms

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Fried food are popular takeaway options for most Taiwanese. ©Getty Images
Fried food are popular takeaway options for most Taiwanese. ©Getty Images
Supplement and functional food firms have a considerable opportunity to help educate consumers, and increase sales, of products targeted to improve fatty liver disease.

A recent survey undertaken by the Taiwan Fucoidan Development Association in the country revealed a widespread lack of understanding around the condition.

It uncovered that 66.1% of the patients do not know the types of food that will mitigate the effects of fatty liver disease.

And as many as 94% thought fatty liver disease is benign and will not cause health problems.

Most patients, 95.8%, also do not have the habit of calculating their calorie intake, which also contributes to the onset of fatty liver disease.

A total of 320 people within the age of 35 to 60 took part in the survey, and responded on their understanding of fatty liver disease and daily eating habits. The respondents were a mix of healthy individuals and fatty liver disease patients.

Out of the participants, 36% of them were found to have fatty liver disease.

It found that consumption of oily food, such as stir-fried rice, noodles and hot pot will increase the risk of fatty liver disease.

For most of the Taiwanese, lunchboxes consisting of pork ribs and fried chicken are popular takeaway food options.

However, these food are usually high in calories, fat and sodium, which can contribute to fatty liver disease.

Takeaway popularity

The survey found that 58.8% will choose lunchboxes when buying takeaway food.

The risk of contracting fatty liver disease is 10.1% higher for people who consume hotpot frequently and 6.6% higher for people who frequently consume fried rice and fried noodles food.

The survey showed that patients have made little effort made to improve their diet. Nearly 40% of the patients continue to buy takeaway food for all three meals.

Commenting on the survey results, association deputy secretary-general and nutritionist Tsai Yi-kuan told China Post that many Taiwanese are fond of eating meals high in calories and fat content.

“Many people used to think it is okay to have fatty liver disease, but actually it increases the risk of hypertension and diabetes by one-and-a-half to two times,”​ she said, adding that more than 70% of people with diabetes have fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease does not only increase the risk of diabetes.

As the disease usually exhibits little to no symptoms, it could develop into malignant conditions such as fatty liver hepatitis, cirrhosis or even liver cancer by the time patients are aware of their fatty liver disease.

Besides unhealthy diets, 30% of patients developed fatty liver disease due to alcohol use.

Tsai advised the need to eat more vegetables or seaweed, as they are low in calories and high in dietary fibre. She also suggested to replace red meat with low-fat chicken or fish.

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