Dealing with fatty liver disease

MH of Dothan, Alabama writes after reading a recent column on spirulina: “Will spirulina have an adverse effect on fatty liver disease? Do you have any other information or suggestions for dealing with fatty liver disease?

Dear MH, I will answer your second question first because I have a lot of nutritional information about fatty liver disease. According to a 2019 review article on this topic in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, a person’s diet is one of the main factors that lead to the development of fatty liver disease.

The proper name for the condition is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. This means that alcohol is not the cause, but it affects the liver in the same way.

One of the main factors that initiates the disease process is what experts call “overnutrition.” In the case of NAFLD, unbalanced intake of fats, sugars and starches causes a buildup of fat in the liver. This eventually causes inflammation and scarring of the liver. If left untreated, the last stage is permanent liver damage called cirrhosis, similar to that seen in chronic alcoholism.

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What is the treatment? Weight loss is key, as overeating and obesity are major contributors to disease. One way to start is to reduce the extra fat in your diet, especially the saturated type. Excess fat turns into body fat very easily.

And cut back on added sugar. For example, a 20-ounce can of soda contains 16 teaspoons of added sugar and 240 calories and has no nutritional benefits.

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However, certain foods can help reverse some of the symptoms of NAFLD. Among them are those that are high in dietary fiber (found on the Nutrition Facts food label for your reading pleasure). Find dietary fiber in foods that begin their life in the soil: vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, beans and other legumes.

When you eat fat, focus on the monounsaturated type known as MUFAs. They are found in foods such as olive, canola, and sunflower oils, along with soy, nuts, and avocados. Studies have shown that a diet high in this type of fat can help reduce fat accumulation in the liver. Don’t eat the entire bowl of guacamole in just one sitting.

Researchers say other fats called polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAs, may also be helpful in treating NAFLD. The most popular of these oils are the omega-3s found in fish, flaxseed and walnuts.

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Regarding your first question, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (best-of-breed) published in Therapies in Complementary Medicine in 2019 found that spirulina is not only safe, but may be an effective alternative treatment for fatty liver disease. Still, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure there are no known interactions with any medications you may be taking.

Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and syndicated columnist. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating” she. Email him at [email protected] This column was provided by the Tribune News Service.


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