nutrition and health

Lifestyle and Fatty Liver

We all know that lifestyle has a very deep impact on our body and soul. One of the most affected organs is liver. Although most of the people have no symptoms related to fatty liver. It is often detected accidentally when an imaging study is requested for another reason.

It is a belief in ayurvedic medicine that every problem in your body is related to the lifestyle. If you want to cure it introspect yourself where you have been wrong. Try and rectify and in result body will heal by itself. I will discuss most of the lifestyle disorders which may result in fatty liver.

Fatty liver is also called as hepatic stetosis. It is caused by imbalance between the delivery of fat in the liver and its subsequent secretion and metabolism. In other words, fat accumulates when the delivery of fatty acids to the liver, either from blood circulation or by de novo synthesis (liver stores excess carbohydrates by converting it to fat) exceeds its capacity to metabolize the fat.

Types of fatty liver disease

There are broadly two types of fatty liver diseases,

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD is a type of fatty liver disease that is not related to heavy alcohol use. There are two kinds:

  •  Simple fatty liver , in which you have fat in your liver but little or no inflammation or liver cell damage.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which you have inflammation and liver cell damage, as well as fat in your liver. Inflammation and liver cell damage can cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. NASH may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Alcoholic fatty liver disease

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is due to heavy alcohol use. Your liver breaks down most of the alcohol you drink, so it can be removed from your body. But the process of breaking it down can generate harmful substances. These substances can damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken your body’s natural defences. The more alcohol that you drink, the more you damage your liver. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The next stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

In this article we will discuss the simple fatty liver disease which is mostly a result of lifestyle disorders.

Causes of simple fatty liver disease

Fatty liver can be simply caused by the disorders which are controllable by us. All these disorders are collectively known as metabolic syndrome.

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is the condition where body develops resistance for Insulin and because of that body tends to increase its production. Hence, it’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. As we all know that insulin plays a very important role in glucose metabolism. Hyperinsulinemia appears as a consequence of the inability of insulin to induce its effect on glucose metabolism, and hence, an abnormally large amount of insulin is secreted to achieve a biological response with consequent several abnormalities in target organs such as the liver and kidneys, and this represents the main feature in the metabolic syndrome.

Obesity

It is never complete without obesity if we talk about lifestyle disorders. Fat is stored in adipose tissue in our body. Adipose tissue is not simply a storage depot for excess energy but rather an active endocrine organ that secretes a number of chemicals. These chemicals can alter insulin sensitivity and can also increase inflammation in the body.

Dyslipidemia

Dyslipidemia refers to unhealthy levels of one or more kinds of lipid (fat) in your blood.

Your blood contains three main types of lipid:

  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • triglycerides

If you have dyslipidemia, it usually means your LDL levels or your triglycerides are too high. It can also mean your HDL levels are too low.

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” type of cholesterol. That’s because it can build up and form clumps or plaques in the walls of your arteries. Too much plaque in the arteries of your heart can cause a heart attack.

HDL is the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL from your blood.

Triglycerides come from the calories you eat but don’t burn right away. Triglycerides are stored in fat cells. They’re released as energy when you need them. If you eat more calories than you burn, though, you can get a build-up of triglycerides.

High LDL and triglyceride levels put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Low levels of HDL cholesterol are linked to higher heart disease risks.

Role of hypertension

The interaction of hypertension, fatty liver and the metabolic syndrome is complex. There are studies which show the correlation of hypertension with fatty liver.

Fruit sugar and liver

Fructose, also called fruit sugar, was once a minor part of our diet. In the early 1900s, the average American took in about 15 grams of fructose a day (about half an ounce), most of it from eating fruits and vegetables. Today we consume four or five times that amount, almost all of it from the refined sugars used to make breakfast cereals, pastries, sodas, fruit drinks, and other sweet foods and beverages.

Refined sugar, called sucrose, is half glucose and half fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose.

The entry of fructose into the liver kicks off a series of complex chemical transformations. One remarkable change is that the liver uses fructose, a carbohydrate, to create fat. This process is called lipogenesis. Because of enough fructose tiny fat droplets begin to accumulate in liver cells. This build-up is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, because it looks just like what happens in the livers of people who drink too much alcohol.

Treatment of fatty liver

The body stores fat in many areas for energy and insulation. The liver partially consists of fat. However, if the fat content in the liver is too high, this may be a sign of fatty liver disease. Dietary changes are the first-line treatment for this liver condition.

Foods to eat for fatty liver

A diet for fatty liver disease should include a wide variety of foods.

Reducing calorie intake and eating high fiber, natural foods is a good starting point. Eating foods that contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein can provide sustained energy and promote satiety.

Foods that reduce inflammation or help the body repair its cells are equally important.

Some people choose to follow specific diet plans, such as a plant-based diet or the Mediterranean diet. A dietitian can often help a person create a customized diet plan that is right for their tastes, symptoms, and health status.

In addition to these basic guidelines, some specific foods may be especially helpful for people with fatty liver disease. These foods include:

Garlic

Garlic is a staple in many diets, and it may provide benefits for people with fatty liver disease. A 2016 study in Advanced Biomedical Research found that garlic powder supplements appear to help reduce body weight and fat in those who have fatty liver disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids

2016 review of current research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids improves the levels of liver fat and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Although more research is necessary to confirm this finding, eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower liver fat. These foods include:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • walnuts
  • flaxseed

Coffee

Drinking coffee is a morning ritual for many people. However, it may provide benefits beyond a burst of energy for people with fatty liver disease.

2019 animal study found tha decaffeinated coffee reduced liver damage and inflammation in mice that ate a diet containing high levels of fat, fructose, and cholesterol.

Another study in mice from the same year showed similar results. The researchers found that coffee reduced the amount of fat that built up in the mice’s livers and improved how their bodies metabolized energy.

Broccoli

Eating a variety of whole vegetables is helpful for people with fatty liver disease. However, broccoli is one vegetable that a person with fatty liver disease should seriously consider including in their diet.

2016 animal study in The Journal of Nutrition found that the long-term consumption of broccoli helped prevent the buildup of fat in murine livers.

Researchers still need to conduct further studies involving humans. However, early research into the effect of broccoli consumption on the development of fatty liver disease looks promising.

Green tea

Using tea for medicinal purposes is a practice that goes back thousands of years.

2015 review in the World  Journal Gastroenterology suggests that green tea may help lower levels of fat in the blood and throughout the body. One of the included studies reported reduced levels of fat in the liver in people who consumed 5–10 cups of green tea per day.

Green tea provides several antioxidants, such as catechin, which may help improve fatty liver disease.

Walnuts

While all tree nuts are a great addition to any diet plan, walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids and may provide benefits for people with fatty liver disease.

review from 2015 found that eating walnuts improved liver function test results in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Soy or whey protein

2019 review in the journal Nutrients found that both soy and whey protein reduced fat buildup in the liver.

The results of one study in the review showed that liver fat decreased by 20% in women with obesity who ate 60 grams of whey protein every day for 4 weeks. Soy protein contains antioxidants called isoflavones that help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the levels of fats in the body.

Foods to avoid

Adding healthful foods to the diet is one way to manage fatty liver disease. However, it is just as important for people with this condition to avoid or limit their intake of certain other foods.

Sugar and added sugars

Added sugars contribute to high blood sugar levels and can increase fat in the liver.

Manufacturers often add sugar to candy, ice cream, and sweetened beverages, such as soda and fruit drinks.

Added sugars also feature in packaged foods, baked goods, and even store-bought coffee and tea. Avoiding other sugars, such as fructose and corn syrup, can also help minimize fat in the liver.

Alcohol

Alcohol is the most common cause of fatty liver disease. Alcohol affects the liver, contributing to fatty liver disease and other liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.

A person with fatty liver disease should reduce their intake of alcohol or remove it from their diet altogether.

Refined grains

Processed and refined grains are present in white bread, white pasta, and white rice. Producers have removed the fiber from these highly processed grains, which can raise blood sugar as the body breaks them down.

2015 study of 73 adults with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease found that those who consumed fewer refined grains had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome — a group of risk factors that increase the likelihood of heart disease and stroke.

People can easily replace refined grains with potatoes, legumes, or whole-wheat and whole-grain alternatives.

Fried or salty foods

Too much fried or salty food is likely to increase calorie intake and the risk of weight gain. Obesity is a common cause of fatty liver disease.

Adding extra spices and herbs to a meal is a great way to flavor foods without adding salt. People can also usually bake or steam foods instead of frying them.

Lifestyle changes

Regular exercise is important for everyone. However, it provides extra benefits for people with fatty liver disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight with exercise may help a person manage and reduce symptoms.

The American Heart Association recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.

Tips for becoming more active include:

  • using a standing workstation
  • stretching every morning
  • walking on a treadmill while watching television
  • taking the stairs instead of an elevator
  • gardening

These are all simple ways to increase activity levels throughout the day without having to make time for a full workout.

About the author

Anju Rai Tiwary

Hi, I am a physiotherapist specialized in neurology. I have also done various certification courses like autism spectrum disorder and weight management. I am here to clarify your health-related curiosities.

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