First responders to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City have a very high rate of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), Healio reports.

Mishal Reja, MD, of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, discussed the findings of a recent study of 9/11 first responders at a press conference in advance of the Digestive Diseases Week virtual conference.

According to Reja, 9/11 first responders should be particularly concerned about fatty liver disease and should be carefully assessed for the condition, which in its more severe form is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Additionally, Reja advised, such individuals should be particularly careful about eating a healthy diet and managing other health conditions.

The toxin exposure these first responders sustained in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks puts them at higher risk for fatty liver disease progression, which can lead to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer), decompensated cirrhosis (the more advanced stage of that severe liver disease) and a higher risk of death, Reja indicated.

The study investigators examined medical charts from the World Trade Center Health Program.

They looked specifically at the charts of 243 people who presented with gastrointestinal symptoms between January 2013 and August 2019. Among them, 83% had NAFLD. This compared with a rate of fatty liver disease in the general population of 24% to 45%.

As with the general population, having a higher body mass index (BMI) was associated with a greater likelihood of having fatty liver.

Those who had fatty liver in the study, compared with those who did not, had a higher rate of gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining (69% versus 50%); esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus (57% versus 56%); and duodenitis, or inflammation of the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine (15% versus 13%).

The most common health conditions in the study population included gastroesophageal reflex disease, or GERD (70%); high blood pressure (40%); diabetes (10%); chronic inflammation of the sinuses and nasal cavity (67%); and obstructive sleep apnea (52%).

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the conference abstract, click here.

To read the Healio article, click here.