A Low Carb Diet Can Help Reverse Fatty Liver Disease

A Low Carb Diet Can Help Reverse Fatty Liver Disease

New scientific research finds that restricting carbohydrates lowers triglycerides and helps you burn more liver fat than following a low calorie diet.

According to the American Liver Foundation, fat plugging up a few liver cells is nothing to worry about, but if the liver’s weight reaches more than 10% fat, you’ve hit the point where normal becomes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFSD). Steatosis, or fatty liver, affects about one-quarter of the U.S. population, but for those with diabetes or insulin resistance, it may be more. In fact, V.A. physician and researcher Kenneth Cusi, M.D., told the Department of Veteran Affairs that for diabetic individuals, “the rate may be as high as four out of five.”

Overweight and obesity signals possible fat in the liver, but as research begins to unravel the problem, many – like The International Liver Congress – are seeing a rise in liver inflammation (steatohepatitis) among those with metabolic syndrome. If obesity and diabetes continues to climb upwards, fatty liver disease will soon reach epidemic proportions. The good news is that a low carb diet has the potential to heal metabolic syndrome, and thereby reverse or hault the progression of NFSD.

Latest Scientific Study Supports Low Carb Diet for Getting Rid of Fat in the Liver

The current recommendation for reducing fat in the liver is weight loss, but JD Browning and colleagues admit in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionthis month that in the past, “little attention has been given to dietary carbohydrate restriction.” Most of the time, you’re urged to use a classic low-calorie diet that includes whole grains and plenty of complex carbs, even though it might not be the best approach for an inflamed, fatty liver.

The object of this study was to compare a typical reducing diet to carbohydrate restriction, similar to the carb level you’d use if you went on the Atkins Induction diet. While a typical diet breakfast would be an ounce of cold cereal with skim milk, a piece of fresh fruit, and coffee with skim milk and sugar substitute, at less than 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, that level of restriction would get you a decent amount of leftover steamed vegetables scrambled into some eggs. Plus, you’d also be able to put real heavy cream in your coffee.

The study lasted only two weeks, and while weight loss between the two groups ended up similar, those on the low carb diet burned significantly more liver fat than those on a typical 1200- or 1500-calorie diet. While another study also published this month in Hepatologyfound no significant difference between a low calorie and a low carb plan after six months, inflammation in the liver can cause serious damage making time an important consideration.

How a Low Carb Diet Burns Liver Fat

When your blood sugar level drops too low, the pancreas releases the hormone glucagon, which stimulates the liver to begin breaking down stored glycogen – the storage form of carbohydrates found in the liver and muscles – and turns it into glucose. To fuel this process, the liver uses our fat stores. When you restrict carbohydrates, the liver uses its stored fat (easily assessable) to convert glycogen into glucose to keep blood sugar steady.

A low calorie diet takes longer to burn liver fat because glucose is not in short supply. While the body draws upon fat stores as you need calories for fuel, with simple calorie restriction there’s no way to manipulate this process. The body randomly pulls what it needs from fat cells.

While a little fat in the liver is considered normal, the majority of those with insulin resistance or diabetes are more likely to have liver inflammation. A swollen liver causes scarring and can eventually lead to cirrhosis; so it needs to be taken seriously. For a quick solution, a low carb diet, rather than calorie restriction alone, may be a better solution.

Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition