Fatty liver disease is a common disease in Western societies, but… unobtrusive, as it usually has no symptoms. There is, however, good news. Adopting a different, healthier nutritional model, based on the rules of the Mediterranean diet, as well as a daily routine that includes physical exercise, can contribute significantly to improving the problem.
“When we refer to fatty liver disease (or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), we mean the disease in which there is an increased accumulation of fat in the liver. The disease occurs when more than 5% of the total weight of the liver consists of fat”, explains Asteria Stamataki, dietician – nutritionist and associate of the 4th surgery clinic, EKPA, in the insert “Health”.
As she explains, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is divided into two types: non-alcoholic hepatosteatosis or fatty infiltration of the liver (benign) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (coexistence of inflammations). It is a particularly common disease in Western societies, given that its incidence is around 30%.
After all, the factors that can lead to fatty liver disease are related – at least some of them, in fact – to the modern lifestyle. Among the most important factors are:
- Increase in body weight. The occurrence of the disease is common in overweight or obese people
- Diabetes mellitus – insulin resistance
- metabolic syndrome
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Taking certain medicinal substances
However, it is important to note that predominantly fatty degeneration of the liver has no symptoms. “For the diagnosis of the disease, the liver is checked by ultrasound as well as the levels of transaminases in the blood. When the disease is diagnosed, there must be monitoring and treatment of the situation because, in some cases, lesions chronic liver disease or even cirrhosis of the liver can occur.In addition, increased levels of fat in the liver are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease,” says Asteria Stamataki.
In the text that follows, the expert lists nutritional advice to manage the disease, as lifestyle changes contribute significantly to treating the problem.
Regarding hepatic steatosis, there is no specific drug. The treatment lies in regulating the factors that contributed to the onset of the problem such as obesity or hypertriglyceridemia. Lifestyle and diet change plays an important role in improving the problem.
Weight loss is very important in the management of the disease. Losing as little as 10% of your body weight appears to help reduce liver fat. Weight loss should not be rapid as it can make the condition worse – so avoid very low calorie diets. A good rate of weight loss is 0.5-1 kg per week.
See a registered dietitian for help.
In general, try to maintain a body mass index below 25.
Reduced fructose intake
High fructose intake appears to cause fat to accumulate in the liver, triggering fat production while preventing fat burning.
High fructose corn syrup is very often used by the food industry as a sweetener. Check the nutrition labels of standard foods and drinks and avoid those high in high fructose corn syrup.
The Mediterranean diet pattern appears to help because it helps reduce the risk of factors (eg, blood pressure, hyperlipidemia) associated with fatty liver disease. Such a model should have the following characteristics:
- Frequent consumption of vegetables and fruits.
- More frequent consumption of lean proteins such as legumes, fish, poultry and fruit.
- Reduced consumption of red and processed meat.
- Consume whole grain products instead of refined products.
- The main source of fat should be olive oil.
A list of tips
- Limit the consumption of saturated and trans fatty acids and favor monounsaturates and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids (eg olive oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oils, fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts, etc.) have beneficial effects on the lipid profile and the cardiovascular system. Increased consumption of ω-3 fatty acids has a positive effect on dyslipidemia and insulin resistance, which are important parameters in patients with fatty liver disease.
- Limit the consumption of simple sugars such as sugar, honey, glucose, as well as foods that contain them.
- When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, accompany them with another food containing protein (eg fruit with nuts).
- Prefer to consume whole fruits instead of juice.
- Choose to stay hydrated with water and other drinks, eg. unsweetened green tea instead of drinks with simple or added sugars such as pop, fruit juice, fruit drinks and energy drinks.
- Eat regular meals and do not leave long intervals between meals.
- Although non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not caused by alcohol, it is beneficial to reduce or abstain from drinking alcohol.
- There are many nutritional supplements and nutritional drugs on the market that promise to reduce liver fat. These preparations should not be taken without the consent of the attending physician.
- Increasing physical activity seems to help improve this condition. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Quitting smoking is always beneficial.