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Since it was established 50 years ago as the world’s first organization committed to finding cures for all types of liver disease, work done by the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) has led to breakthroughs in liver research, changes in health policy, the professional education of hepatologists, and free support services for patients and caregivers in need.

“The support from our funders has helped us reduce unnecessary suffering and death from liver disease among Canadians,” says CLF president Gary Fagan. “Our successes have been built by donors, doctors, sponsors and volunteers who will take us through the next 50 years of bringing liver research to life – just like our mission statement suggests.”

While the 50-year milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the CLF’s impact on liver disease in Canada, it is also a good time to plan its future initiatives, says Mr. Fagan, who adds that supporting research projects that will lead to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of liver disease remains the top priority.

He points out that over seven million Canadian adults and children may suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common liver disease in Canada, a serious condition that can lead to liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant or even death.

“This is a disease that is projected to overtake hepatitis C as the number one cause for liver transplants, but it remains overlooked by the average person who may think alcohol is the liver’s only threat,” he says.

If NAFLD is not diagnosed or managed early enough, it can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), where fibrosis and cirrhosis (irreversible scarring) occurs, possibly leading to liver cancer or liver failure.

However, NAFLD can often be prevented or even reversed if it is detected before permanent liver damage has occurred. At least two and a half hours of exercise a week and a healthy diet low in animal fat and sugary drinks and high in fresh fruit and vegetables can help prevent the disease, according to the CLF.

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.