Liver Fat Is Directly Linked to This Disease, New Study Says — Eat This Not That

According to a new study from Brunel University London, fatty liver can also have a serious impact on blood sugar levels.

The researchers reviewed MRI scans from 32,859 people who took a close look at the size of the liver and pancreas. The investigators relied on a type of method used to measure gene function in order to examine cause and effect, known as Mendelian randomization.

Not only did scientists learn that individuals with a genetic predisposition to storing fat in the liver were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but every 5% increase in liver fat has been shown to raise that risk by 27%.

“Our results encourage better treatment for those living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and provide evidence of the multiple benefits of losing weight and improving screening for diabetes risk in these people,” lead study author Dr. Haniyeh Yagoutkar said in a press release.

The Cleveland Clinic defines NAFLD as a condition that occurs in one in three adults who do not drink heavily. While the cause of this type of liver disease is unknown, obesity and diabetes are potential risk factors.

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says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, a nutrition consultant in New Jersey and author of 2 day diabetes diet. “It stands to reason that even small amounts of fat accumulating in the liver would, in turn, raise insulin resistance and, in turn, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Furthermore, she believes this current study offers tremendous value because it indicates the importance of focusing on preventing excess fatty tissue in the liver – which is centered around your diet. “Some research suggests that coffee can be protective against liver damage from fat buildup. So, if tolerated, drinking up to two cups per day may be beneficial,” Palinski-Wade says.

However, she quickly adds that stirring in sugar and cream “may speed up fat buildup in the liver. Alternatively, enjoy black or sweetened coffee with flavors, such as cinnamon or vanilla extract.”

Besides limiting your sugar intake in general, Palinski-Wade also advises limiting your alcohol consumption. “Following a Mediterranean style of eating foods rich in vegetable fats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fatty fish may be the best strategy for reducing liver fat,” she says.

Additionally, consider putting more high-fiber foods — such as broccoli, berries, and apples, as well as plenty of leafy greens and legumes — on your plate. “Fiber may help reduce fat deposits in the liver while also helping to promote steady blood sugar levels and fight insulin resistance,” Palinski-Wade says.

Palinski-Wade concluded that, “A study found that spinach, in particular, may reduce the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver, while the resistant starch found in legumes may also help reduce nonalcoholic fatty liver.”

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