Cholesterol, Metabolic Syndrome, and Fatty Liver Disease

Cholesterol, Metabolic Syndrome, and Fatty Liver Disease

Cholesterol is highly related to many ailments and diseases. We usually think about cholesterol in terms of cardiovascular disease, but it can also affect other organs and be linked to other harmful processes. This article will briefly discuss the links between cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease

 A condition that is characterized by the storage of high amounts of fat in the liver but causes no symptoms; many people have it without even realizing it. A regular, healthy liver stores a small amount of fat; this becomes problematic when the liver has more than 5% of its weight in fat. In such cases, the disease can lead to:

 Liver inflammation – this stage is called steatohepatitis.

  • Scar tissue develops where the liver is damaged – this stage is called fibrosis.
  • Healthy tissue is replaced by extensive scar tissue – this stage is called liver cirrhosis.

 The last stage is the consequence of severe damage to the organ. The damaged tissues slow down the functioning of the liver, blocking it entirely and leading to liver failure and potential death. 

Metabolic Syndrome

A bit more challenging to define since it is a multi-process ailment that combines high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. This condition puts a person at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other situations involving blood vessels. 

 How are they related?

 Metabolic syndrome has two critical components: triglycerides and glucose, both overproduced by a fatty liver. Therefore, fatty liver disease triggers many metabolic problems and abnormalities. Obesity becomes an essential factor since both metabolic syndrome and fatty liver conditions get exacerbated with it. Other scientists and health specialists say that a fatty liver is both a cause and consequence of metabolic syndrome. 

What Role Does Cholesterol Play in both Conditions?

 When the liver becomes fatty, it becomes insulin resistant and overproduces glucose and VLDL. This leads to hypertriglyceridemia and a low HDL cholesterol concentration.

 The International Diabetes Federation lists the following symptoms as the definition of metabolic syndrome: increased fasting serum glucose, high levels of triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol concentration. This cluster of conditions is a predictor of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

 A study conducted in San Antonio showed the risk for cardiovascular disease increased in people who suffered from metabolic syndrome, independent of age, gender, smoking, and family history of cardiovascular disease. Every single component of metabolic syndrome directly relates to liver fat content. Although obesity is a weighing factor, controlling BMI is not enough. 

The role of fatty liver and HDL Cholesterol

Insulin is responsible for the inhibition of VLDL from the liver. As we mentioned, when the liver becomes fatty and insulin-resistant, VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein, often referred to as “bad cholesterol”) gets overproduced, lowering HDL cholesterol. 

 Humans absorb cholesterol from their diets; then, it’s synthesized by cells in various tissues. Only 1% of the total cholesterol is involved in a dynamic metabolic cycle. In patients with fatty liver disease, these cycles and systems become disorganized. Under normal circumstances, our body triggers several processes to maintain cholesterol levels within a healthy range. 

 Some nutritional researchers claim that high-fat, high-cholesterol diets are the primordial cause of fatty liver disease – considering that obese people have more insulin resistance than those patients with fatty liver who are not overweight. 

Furthermore, excess cholesterol intake -rather than triglycerides – plays a massive role in the progression of fatty liver disease. Cholesterol control management is a promising treatment for fatty liver disease. 


Our livers are a biochemical factory. Liver functioning correctly prevents many cardiovascular risk factors. Data shows that a fatty liver can predict metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes independently of other variables. 


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