Carbohydrate reduction may help treat fatty liver disease

Cutting down on pasta, potatoes, and other foods high in carbohydrates has become a common weight loss plan. However, according to a new report, a carb-restricted diet can offer other health benefits.

Foods rush in carbohydrate
Researchers suggest that carb restriction could benefit people with NAFLD.

In a limited number of people living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease ( NAFLD), researchers found that only 2 weeks of a carb-restricted diet decreased levels of liver fat and strengthened other cardiometabolic health markers.

Adil Mardinoglu, co-author of the research, from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and a team recently published their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism.

NAFLD is a disorder that is characterized by excess fat accumulation in the liver. NAFLD is not caused by heavy alcohol intake, unlike alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In the United States, about 30-40 percent of adults are thought to have NAFLD, making it “one of the most common causes of liver disease” in the world.

Obesity and associated health problems are significant risk factors for NAFLD, such as type 2 diabetes. In about 30-90 percent of people who are obese, the disorder has been established.

The adoption of a balanced diet is considered essential to NAFLD treatment, and doctors generally recommend minimizing fat intake.

The new research, however, indicates that another treatment option for NAFLD may be to reduce carbohydrate consumption.

Liver fat metabolism improved

In their study, Mardinoglu and his colleagues enrolled ten adults, all of whom were obese and had NAFLD.

The participants were put on an isocaloric diet for 2 weeks that was reduced in carbohydrates but improved in protein. An isocaloric diet is one where every day you eat the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins, or fats.

The team analyzed how the dietary intervention impacted the study participants’ liver fat, as well as other metabolic responses.

The analysis showed that the carb-restricted diet increased the metabolism of liver fat over the 14-day study period and contributed to “dramatic decreases” in liver fat.

The researchers also found that restriction of carbohydrates led to a decrease in inflammatory markers, especially interleukin-6 and alpha factor of tumor necrosis, higher levels of which were associated with greater severity of NAFLD.

Moreover, they found that the carb-restricted diet caused changes in microbiota in the gut that were associated with a rise in folate circulating levels that was related to improvements in the metabolism of liver fat.

Commenting on their conclusions, the researchers write:

“[…] we showed that short-term intervention with an isocaloric low-carbohydrate diet with increased protein content promotes multiple metabolic benefits in obese humans with NAFLD.”

That said, they warn that when it comes to dieting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so a carb-restricted diet can not work for everyone with NAFLD.

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