There’s more to looking after your liver health than just watching the number of alcoholic beverages you drink each week.
For instance, the wrong lifestyle choices could leave you at risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition affecting nearly a third of all Americans in which extra fat builds up in your liver, increasing the risk of a range of unpleasant health outcomes .
Staying active and eating healthy foods could help protect you from this condition. Plus, now new research suggests that green tea extract can be helpful for those with NAFLD.
Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science
In the study, published earlier this month in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers were looking to uncover what the catechins (an antioxidant that can help protect your cells) in green tea do inside the liver to help improve the disease. Examining the process in mice, they found that certain kinds of these catechins, namely epigallocatechin and epicatechin, could play a role in activating a receptor, PPARα, that can be key to metabolic processes.
Green tea extract is available as a supplement. However, reflecting on this study in an interview with Eat This, Not That!Texas-based nutrition communications consultant Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, Cautions that, because the study was conducted on mice, we can’t take it for granted that the process would be the same in humans.
“Animal studies are good for collecting preliminary evidence that can then be tested in human studies, but we cannot suggest that the results of animal studies are what would occur in humans,” she says. “No one compound, food, beverage, or ingredient is a ‘magic bullet’ in health and disease. It depends on the total diet over time as well as other lifestyle factors such as exercise, alcohol intake, sleep, stress management, medication, and regular medical checkups.”
While no single food is going to make or break it for you, your diet can nonetheless play a significant role in improving or hurting your liver function if you look at your food choices overall.
“NAFLD is directly related to the foods you eat. You are either eating pro-inflammatory foods or anti-inflammatory foods,” Sunil Pai, MD, author of An Inflammation Nationtell Eat This, Not That! Pro-inflammatory foods [include] animal proteins,…saturated fats, highly refined sugars, and ultra-processed foods, which trigger and worsen NAFLD. Anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and seeds are all anti-inflammatory and help improve liver function.”
For additional tips on how to make more liver-friendly choices, read about How to Reverse a Fatty Liver, Say Experts.