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Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), Diet and Supplements

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), Diet and Supplements

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when body fat excessively accumulates in liver cells of people who don’t abuse alcohol.

If addressed early the accumulation of this fat (and hence NAFLD) can be reversed. If not addressed, it can lead to a more serious liver condition (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH).

Though not always the case, most people with a fatty liver are also overweight or obese and tend to have visceral fat concentrated around the midsection of their body. Obesity is the result of imbalanced energy regulation in the body.
Obesity is an inflammatory condition. In addition to the relationship between obesity and NAFLD, there is also an association between NAFLD and cardiometabolic risk factors, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance/prediabetes.
Often, people with NAFLD have a diet high in simple sugars, especially fructose. One of the main culprits of fructose is high fructose corn syrup found in soda pop and energy drinks as well as many other processed foods.

Recent research also suggests that gut dysbiosis (imbalance in gut bacteria ecology) and associated poor gut barrier function (“leaky gut”) may contribute to the development of NAFLD.

nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

The Best “Prescription” for NAFLD

The best “prescription” for NAFLD is eating a healthy Mediterranean diet, exercising moderately every day, and gradually losing weight (1-2 1bs/week). In line with this is maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

The Mediterranean diet is built around whole, unprocessed food, abundant in plant foods, high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil. Fish (including fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids) is also important in the Mediterranean diet and may help reduce inflammation in the body. Other protein sources are poultry, beans and eggs and moderate amounts of low fat dairy. Red meat which is high in saturated fats is eaten only occasionally.

Very importantly, simple and refined carbohydrates (including table sugar, fructose, processed grains) are limited.

Healthy fats are eaten instead of less healthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, which can contribute to heart disease. Olive oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish are the predominant fats in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil, and many nuts and seeds provide monounsaturated fat, which has been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels.

Attaining a a healthy weight and eating a Mediterranean type diet are fundamental in addressing NAFLD.

Can Nutrition Supplements Help with NAFLD?

This article in World Journal of Hepatology, February 2015,  is a the literature review of dietary supplements studied for NAFLD.

Recent advances in dietary supplementation, in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

“Since there is no proven pharmacologic treatment for NAFLD, it is critically important to find dietary approaches to the prevention, attenuation, or reversal of hepatic steatosis, and its progression to steatohepatitis. As insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and inflammation are involved in pathogenesis of NAFLD, it seems that dietary supplements that can modulate these pathologies could be useful in the treatment of NAFLD. These supplements have shown beneficial effects in animal models of NAFLD, however clinical trials are scarce. Further clinical trials are needed to support the use of supplements, either as preventative or therapeutic agents that effectively prevent the development and/or worsening of liver steatosis in patients with NAFLD.” –

Dietary supplements for NAFLD discussed in this article include:

Antioxidants – Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Resveratrol, Green Tea, Ginger

Anti-inflammatories – Omega-3-fatty acids, Vitamin D, Probiotics

Insulin Sensitizers – Cinnamon, Curcumin, Quercetin, Carnitine
(I would like to add Berberine to this list.)

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