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Eating better tied to lower risk of liver disease

By Reuters - Apr 30,2018 - Last updated at Apr 30,2018

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People who make an effort to improve their diet may be more likely to have less fat in their livers and a lower risk of liver disease than individuals who stick to unhealthy eating habits, a US study suggests. 

Researchers focused on what is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFDL), which is usually associated with obesity and certain eating habits. While dietary changes are recommended to treat this type of liver disease, research to date has not clearly demonstrated whether these changes can work for prevention. 

For the current study, researchers examined data from dietary questionnaires and liver fat scans for 1,521 people enrolled in the long-running Framingham Heart Study. Participants did the questionnaires and scans twice, at least three to four years apart. 

During the study, people with above-average increases in adherence to a healthy Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, fish, lean protein, veggies and olive oil were at least 26 per cent less likely to develop fatty liver than individuals with average increases in adherence, the study found. 

Above-average increases in sticking to another liver-friendly diet, the so-called Alternative Healthy Eating Index, were associated with at least 21 per cent lower odds of developing fatty liver, researchers report in Gastroenterology. 

People with a high genetic risk for fatty liver disease whose diet scores decreased during the study period accumulated more fat in their livers. But even with a high genetic risk, fat accumulation did not increase if people kept their diets the same or improved them. 

“Our findings demonstrate that increasing diet quality is associated with less liver fat accumulation and reduced risk for new-onset fatty liver, particularly in individuals with a high genetic risk for NAFLD,” said senior study author Daniel Levy, director of the Framingham Heart Study and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. 

Participants who had improved diet quality scores consumed more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, which have high amounts of water and fibre. 

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