Dr. Peter Brukner OAM2 min read

Is your liver 'fat'?

Over one third of Australians have fatty liver disease, or as it is more formally known - Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

But how is this possible? Where have we all gone wrong? First, we need to look at what fatty liver disease actually is.

What is fatty liver disease?

Basically, the liver becomes filled with fatty depots and therefore, the liver function can be impaired.

NAFLD is thought of as a precursor to type 2 diabetes and can be regarded as a pre-diabetes condition.

As Professor Roy Taylor, a diabetes expert from the UK says, “Before the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, there is a long silent scream from the liver”.

What can fatty liver disease do to the body?

As well as type 2 diabetes, NAFLD has also been linked to the development of cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The main cause is thought to be excessive intake of fructose which is found in table sugar (half glucose and half fructose) and fruit. Soft drinks in particular contain large amounts of fructose.

Is it reversible?

A research paper published this week in the journal, JHEP Reports, reports on a Swedish study where they treated subjects with fatty liver disease for 12 weeks with either a low carb healthy fat diet (LCHF) or a 5:2 restricted calorie diet, and compared the results to a group who were given standard lifestyle advice.

Both the LCHF and 5:2 groups dramatically reduced the amount of fatty deposits in their livers and lost significant amounts of weight (>7kg) in the 12 week period.

The bottom line

This study reflects my own personal experience. I had been diagnosed with fatty liver 10 years earlier and the abnormalities has shown up in my regular two yearly blood tests ever since.

After adopting a low car eating program for three months, my blood tests completely normalised and there was no longer any evidence of fatty liver.

The blood levels have remained normal in the nine years since then, while I have continued my low carb eating pattern.

My fatty liver was evidence of pre-diabetes and given my family history of type 2 diabetes, I have no doubt that, had I not made the changes I did, then by now I would have full blown type 2 diabetes.

Dodged that bullet!

Source: Holmer M, Lindqvist C, Petersson S, Moshtaghi-Svensson J, Tillander V, Brismar TB, Hagström H, Stål P, Treatment of NAFLD with intermittent calorie restriction or low- carb high-fat diet – a randomized controlled trial, JHEP Reports (2021)

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