Most liver transplants are expected to be linked to over-eating rather than alcohol abuse by 2020, an expert has said.
Dr Quentin Anstee, a consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and the Freeman hospital, warned that the UK faced a “major and growing challenge” as increasing numbers of Britons are diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
A third of Britons are thought to have the condition, according to researchers, which is caused by people eating more than their livers can cope with.
Newcastle University is set to be the centre of a new Europe-wide research programme into liver disease, with Britain among the worst-affected countries.
Anstee said: “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the major and growing challenges facing the UK.
“With such a large proportion of the population at risk, the challenge is identifying which individuals we need to home in on.
“There has been a shift in the entire population. The truth is that the man in the street is carrying a few more pounds than a decade ago. The rate of liver disease has increased 400% since the 1970s.
“It’s predicted that by the end of this decade, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will be be the most common underlying reason why people are required to have liver transplants, overtaking alcohol.”