LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Too much alcohol can cause liver disease, and now a first-of-its-kind study suggests fast food can have a direct impact on your liver health as well.
About 30% of people in the United States have non-alcoholic, fatty, liver disease.
Many don't know they have it. Who wouldn't line up for a sweet, gooey egg puff pancake?
But these days, waiting in line for food is more the norm than the occasional treat.
"I had Taco Bell yesterday. Panda Express the day before. Pizza Hut the day before that," said Kamry Morris of Los Angeles.
Alexa Crisostomo of Eagle Rock said she goes through fast food drive-thrus maybe three times a week.
Daniela Espiritu of Irvine said she gets fast food twice a week.
"If you're going, even every couple of days, that's probably still too much," said lead study author and hepatologist Dr. Ani Kardashian with Keck Medicine of USC.
She said fast food consumption jumped during the pandemic.
"Fast food includes food from any drive-thru or restaurant that doesn't have a wait staff," she said.
If convenience-style foods make up 20% of your diet, Kardashian's findings reveal how that elevates your risk for a fatty liver.
"Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is another cause of major liver problems, including cirrhosis or scarring of the liver, liver failure, and one of the most feared complications of cirrhosis which is liver cancer," Kardashian said.
The risk was substantially higher for those dealing with obesity and diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from a national survey - 29% said a fifth of their calories came from fast food, and that same 29% were the ones who experienced higher liver fat.
People with hectic schedules say convenience is what "drives" them to fast food.
"If I can drive somewhere and get my food rather than spend an hour cooking, I'm driving to get my food," Morris said.
Kardashian said packing lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies from home can be more convenient than a drive-thru.
"If you change your diet. If you eat healthier. If you eat a Mediterranean diet, lose weight. We know that you can actually reverse and reduce the amount of fat in the liver," she said.
"I know the cost of food is high, but we can do it. Nothing is impossible," said Espiritu.