Refraining from drinking alcohol can help stop alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) from progressing and potentially reverse the condition.

AFLD is liver damage resulting from excess alcohol consumption. It is the first stage of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD).

This article outlines AFLD and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and describes the effect that avoiding alcohol can have on both these conditions. It also discusses the risk factors for fatty liver disease (FLD) alongside management and prevention.

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FLD is a condition causing excess accumulation of fat in the liver.

There are two main types of FLD: nonalcohol-related and alcohol-related. Both differ in terms of their causes and progression.


AFLD is due to the accumulation of fat in the liver in people who engage in regular and excess alcohol consumption over an extended period.

AFLD can progress from simple fatty liver to alcoholic steatohepatitis, which involves inflammation and liver cell damage. Continued alcohol consumption can result in alcohol-related cirrhosis, which is irreversible scarring of the liver.


NAFLD is the accumulation of fat in the liver in people who consume little to no alcohol.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, individuals with NAFLD have a higher risk for other health issues, such as:

NAFLD can range from a simple fatty liver to a more severe condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While NAFLD is generally benign, NASH involves inflammation and liver cell damage, which can trigger scarring or fibrosis. This can lead to alcohol-related cirrhosis, which is considered end stage liver disease.

Medical experts recommend that people with any form of FLD avoid alcohol.

A 2017 article notes that complete abstinence from alcohol is a crucial step toward potentially reversing AFLD. Although the scar tissue will likely remain, liver function will improve. For some individuals, scarring also improves.

Continued alcohol consumption can worsen FLD, particularly AFLD. The liver has a limited capacity to regenerate, and prolonged alcohol use can lead to irreversible liver damage. Over time, it may cause more serious conditions, such as:

A doctor can offer personalized guidance on alcohol avoidance and other lifestyle modifications to support liver health.

Can alcohol avoidance help with NAFLD?

Avoiding alcohol can have several positive effects on NAFLD. These include:

  • Reduction of liver inflammation: Alcohol causes liver inflammation. Abstaining from alcohol can reduce liver inflammation, which is a significant factor in the progression of NAFLD.
  • Prevention of additional liver damage: Alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, can worsen liver damage in individuals with NAFLD. Avoiding alcohol helps prevent the accumulation of additional fat, reducing the burden on the liver and allowing it to heal and recover.
  • Improvement in metabolic health: NAFLD is closely associated with metabolic conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Alcohol can aggravate these conditions, leading to further liver damage. By avoiding alcohol, people can improve their metabolic health and potentially slow the progression of NAFLD.
  • Overall liver health: Alcohol consumption can have a detrimental effect on liver function, irrespective of the underlying cause of liver disease. Avoiding alcohol helps to maintain optimal liver health and function.

Some individuals are at increased risk of developing FLD. These include:

  • People who drink alcohol in excess: Those who regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of developing AFLD. These individuals may benefit from support to help them limit their alcohol intake or quit drinking.
  • People who are overweight or have obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for NAFLD. Excess abdominal fat or visceral fat contributes to insulin resistance and fat accumulation in the liver.
  • Individuals with metabolic conditions: People with one or more of the following metabolic conditions are at increased risk of developing NAFLD:
  • Older individuals: The prevalence of NAFLD increases with age. This may be due to the following:
    • changes in metabolism
    • hormonal changes
    • cumulative exposure to risk factors over time
  • People with a family history of FLD: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing FLD. Those with a family history of FLD are at increased risk of developing the condition.

The factors listed below may help with managing FLD.


According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), there is currently no medical treatment for AFLD or NAFLD.

Medications may be necessary to address underlying conditions that are causing or contributing to FLD, such as:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • metabolic syndrome

Treating these conditions could help slow or stop the progression of FLD in some cases.


A 2020 article notes that omega-3 fatty acids may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the liver, which appears to improve NAFLD in children.

However, certain supplements can interfere with other supplements or medications a person is taking. As such, it is important that a person talks with a doctor before introducing a new supplement or increasing the dosage.

Lifestyle changes

Other ways to manage FLD include:

The best way to prevent AFLD is to avoid or limit alcohol since excessive alcohol consumption is the cause of AFLD. If a person needs support, they can talk with a doctor about suitable resources.

It may not always be possible to prevent NAFLD. However, the following may help to minimize the risk:

  • achieving and maintaining a moderate weight, which is especially important for helping to prevent NAFLD
  • eating a balanced diet that is low in saturated fats, trans fats, and calories
  • avoiding foods that are high in simple sugars, such as fructose and sucrose
  • consuming foods with a low glycemic index, which are less likely to spike blood sugar levels
  • limiting portion sizes at meal times
  • performing regular exercise

Regular medical checkups and liver screenings can help detect FLD or any liver irregularities in their early stages. These checkups may include:

Refraining from drinking alcohol can help stop the progression of alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and reverse the condition. Avoiding alcohol is also important in the management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

People who have AFLD and continue consuming alcohol are at risk of developing more serious conditions, such as alcoholic hepatitis, alcohol-related cirrhosis with liver failure, and liver cancer. Anyone who is having difficulty with alcohol consumption can contact a doctor for guidance and access to appropriate resources.

People who are at increased risk of fatty liver disease can request regular medical checkups and liver screenings. These can help detect FLD and other liver irregularities in their early stages.