Preventable liver disease is rising: What you eat — and avoid — counts

In today’s fast-paced society, our waking hours are loaded with decisions, most of which revolve around what to eat. Dinner after a long day could be fast food or takeaway. While you may be concerned about the impact of your food choices on your waistline or blood pressure, as a liver specialist, I’d like to put fatty liver disease on your radar.

One type, technically known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), now affects one out of every four persons worldwide. It can sometimes proceed to significant scarring, known as cirrhosis, liver failure, and an increased risk of liver cancer. What’s the good news? Fatty liver disease can be avoided or treated.

What exactly is fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver disease is a condition caused by liver inflammation. In reaction to the insult, liver tissue develops an inordinate quantity of fat. Fatty liver disease can be caused by viral hepatitis, certain medications (such as tamoxifen or steroids), or excessive alcohol consumption.

NAFLD, on the other hand, has a different cause of fat accumulation in the liver: a combination of metabolic risk factors. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance (prediabetes), or type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop NAFLD. It is also more frequent in persons who are overweight or obese, though NAFLD can develop even if your body mass index (BMI) is normal.

What factors aid in the prevention or reversal of NAFLD?

Diet can have a significant impact. NAFLD is so intimately linked to metabolic health that eating more healthfully can help prevent or even reverse it. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of a healthy eating pattern.

Obesity or being overweight is a common cause of NAFLD. A weight loss program that involves physical activity and proper diet can aid in the control of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are two of the numerous healthy diet regimens that can help. If you need assistance selecting a plan, consult your doctor or a nutritionist.

To thoroughly investigate any diet as a treatment for fatty liver disease, researchers must control a number of variables. There is now no compelling evidence to promote one diet over another. However, the research presented below highlights options for promoting liver health.

Avoid eating fast food.

A new study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology connected regular fast-food consumption (20% or more of total daily calories) to fatty liver disease, particularly in those with type 2 diabetes or obesity. Fast foods are heavy in saturated fats, added sugar, and other components that have an impact on metabolic health.

Avoid soft drinks and additional sweeteners.

Soft drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup or other sugar-sweetened beverages cause significant increases in liver fat deposition, regardless of total calories taken. Check labels carefully for added sugars such as corn syrup, dextrose, honey, and agave.

Drink plain water instead of sugary drinks. Coffee, black or with a dash of cream, is also an excellent choice; research suggests that coffee has the ability to reduce liver scarring.

Stay away from alcohol.

Alcohol is toxic to the liver, has no nutritional value, and may disrupt a healthy microbiota. If you have NAFLD, you should prevent any additional causes of liver injury. We just do not know how much alcohol is safe for those with fatty liver disease – even social drinking may be excessive.

Consume largely complete foods.

Vegetables, fruit, eggs, poultry, grass-fed meats, almonds, and whole grains are all acceptable, although avoiding red meat may be prudent. 294 patients with abdominal obesity and lipid abnormalities such as elevated triglycerides participated in an 18-month experiment. Participants were urged to engage in regular physical exercise and were randomly allocated to one of three diets: conventional healthy dietary guidelines, a typical Mediterranean diet, or a green-Mediterranean diet. (The green-Med diet eliminated red and processed meats, replacing them with green tea and a supper replacement shake high in antioxidants known as polyphenols.)

All three groups lost weight, but the Mediterranean diet groups dropped more and kept it off for a longer period of time. Both Mediterranean diet groups lowered liver fat after 18 months, but the green-Med group reduced liver fat twice as much as the typical Mediterranean diet group.

A healthy diet includes healthy fats.

We all require fat. Dietary fats aid in the absorption of vitamins and are essential in the protection of neurons and tissues. Fats also make you feel satiated and full, which makes you less prone to overeat. Sugars and carbohydrates, which affect blood sugar balance in our bodies, are frequently substituted in low-fat diets. However, not all fat is created equal.

It’s obvious that Mediterranean-style diets can help reduce liver fat, which can help prevent or reverse NAFLD. These diets are heavy in beneficial fats, such as monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocados, as well as omega-3 fats found in walnuts and oily fish like salmon and sardines.

With so many options, it’s difficult to know where to begin on the path to healthy eating. Let us make an effort to consume complete foods in their natural state. Our livers will be grateful.

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