Weight loss: Dr Michael Mosley on benefits of fasting
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Fat in all its forms poses risks to health, but hepatic fat that resides in the liver is exceptionally harmful. The fat is strongly associated with fatty liver disease, also known as Hepatic steatosis, where it accumulates in liver cells and causes inflammation. Exercise and healthy nutrition offer the best chances of staving off the disease. One diet, however, may slash levels of harmful hepatic fat by nearly 40%.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular events.
One body of research, however, suggests the diet may also significantly lower concentrations of dangerous fat in the liver.
The pilot study, published in the journal of Hepatology,compared the Mediterranean diet with a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet in a sample of 12 patients with non-alcoholic-fatty liver disease [NAFLD] who underwent a six-week intervention study.
The researchers of the study observed a significant reduction in hepatic steatosis, as well as improvement in insulin sensitivity in the patients who followed a Mediterranean diet, compared to those who followed a low-fat or high carbohydrate.
READ MORE: Fatty liver disease: Seven tell-tale signs indicating you have too much fat in your liver
The reduction in the 39 percent hepatic steatosis compared to seven percent and three percent with the low-fat and high-carbohydrate diets respectively.
These findings were echoed by one long-term study published by a team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University, who confirmed that a Mediterranean diet may be the most effective at reducing levels of harmful liver fat.
For their study, the team looked at MRI scans of the bodies of 278 participants to establish their fat distribution, before putting them on an 18-months trial period to determine the impact of two different diets.
Findings revealed that a low-carb Mediterranean diet has a more pronounced effect on lowering fat storage around the liver, heart, and pancreases.
The overall weight loss was the same for both diets, however.
Professor Iris Shai, who led the study, said in a pressed release: “Reducing liver fat is a better predictor of long-term health than a reduction in visceral fat, which was previously believed to be the main predictor.
“The findings are a significant contributor to the emerging understanding that for many obese individuals, excess liver fat is not merely a sign of health risks associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but it likely also a cause.
“Healthy nutrition, while also maintaining consistent, moderate weight loss, has a much more dramatic impact on levels of body fat related to diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease than we previously thought.”
The diet administered to participants was low in red meat and comprised moderate amounts of poultry and fish and fresh vegetables, legumes and nuts.
How to avoid fatty liver disease
High liver fat is notoriously harmful because it is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Fructose, one of the sweetest forms of natural sugar, has strong associations with the condition because it overwhelms the small intestines.
This enables it to infiltrate the bloodstream along with other molecules that travel to the liver, where it is converted into fat and can cause long-term damage.
Foods that contain exceptionally high levels of fructose include agave syrup, apple juice, caramel. honey and molasses.
Foods with added sugar, and added salt, as well as fried foods, should all be consumed in moderation too.
Alongside diet, resisting the urge to smoke cigarettes and exercising regularly can also lower the risk of fatty liver disease.
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