Cutting back on carbs pays off — a study in Cell Metabolism suggests a carbohydrate-restricting diet to improve metabolism and reduce liver fat. The study, carried out by researchers from Sweden, looked at how a carbohydrate-restricted diet enhanced metabolism and improved liver fat levels in the body.
In conducting the study, the research team put 10 individuals who were obese and had a high percentage of liver fat on a diet that restricted their carbohydrate consumption and increased protein intake in a span of two weeks. The researchers also gathered clinical and big data analysis in order to identify the subsequent changes in metabolism and gut bacteria. They relied on a combination of systems medicine and advanced clinical studies, as well as integrating multiple data sets from the body’s omes, such as genome, proteome, and transcriptome in order to determine biomarkers.
Results of the study showed that the study participants exhibited quick and significant reductions in liver fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, as well as marked reductions, in the synthesis of hepatic fat. The metabolism of harmful hepatic lipids was strongly linked to rapid increases in B vitamins and the bacteria that produce folic acid. This occurred together with a reduction in the expression of genes that contribute to the synthesis of fatty acid and a boost in the expression of genes that take part in folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism and fatty acid oxidation.
In conclusion, a low-carbohydrate diet enhanced liver fat metabolism in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The diet boosted rapid changes in the composition of the gut microbiota of NAFLD patients, and these low-carbohydrate diet-induced changes were linked to an increased circulation folate. In addition, the diet increased folate-dependent one-carbon metabolism gene expression in the liver.
“A carbohydrate-restricted dietary intervention such as the one we used can be an effective treatment strategy for a severe health problem, as medical science continues the development of new drugs,” said Adil Mardinoglu, a researcher at KTH The Royal Institute of Technology.
The findings of the study suggested that a diet that restricts carbohydrate intake can be a possible effective treatment for a fatty liver. (Related: Going Paleo? Here’s how to avoid over-consuming animal protein on your low-carb diet)
“We found that the diet, independently of weight-loss, induced rapid and dramatic reductions of liver fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, and revealed hitherto unknown underlying molecular mechanisms,” said Jan Boren, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Gothenburg. “It’s important, however, to clarify that diets are complicated and that one type of diet does not fit everyone. For example, subjects with hypercholesterolemia should be careful.”
More on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), one of the most common causes of liver disease in the U.S., is a condition wherein unwanted fat is stored in the liver. The accumulation of fat is not a result of excessive alcohol intake. There are two types of NAFLD – simple fatty liver and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver, simple fatty liver is NAFLD form wherein there is fat in the liver but there is little or no inflammation or liver cell impairment. It does not usually progress to cause liver damage or complications. On the other hand, NASH is a condition wherein there is fat buildup in the liver as well as inflammation of the liver and liver cell damage. In turn, these can lead to fibrosis or scarring of the liver. NASH may result in cirrhosis or liver cancer.
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