Plant-based diets protect the liver

A study shows a plant-based diet offers protection whilst a meat-based one can contribute to damage

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when fat is deposited in the liver due to causes other than excessive alcohol use. It’s considered to be one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which also includes obesity, insulin resistance (pre-diabetic stage), elevated fat levels in the blood and high blood pressure. It comes as no surprise that it’s been linked to unhealthy diets and increasingly younger people develop this condition.

A Chinese study set out to examine dietary patterns of 16-23-year-olds and their liver health. As the authors remarked, traditional Chinese diet is changing fast and Western-style foods are becoming ever more popular bringing with them a host of preventable diseases. The study analysed data from 1,639 participants, 221 of which were classified as having NAFLD. Their results revealed that people eating a diet that’s closest to the traditional Chinese diet (based on wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, soya and other beans, tofu, small amounts of eggs) were much less likely to have NAFLD than people whose diets would be described as Western (based on refined grains, red meat, processed and preserved meat, seafood, dairy products, Western fast food, snacks and fizzy drinks) – in fact, the difference was staggering at almost 50 per cent!

Liu X et al., 2018. An observational study on the association between major dietary patterns and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in Chinese adolescents. Medicine. 97(17):e0576.