Low-carb diet can improve liver function in patients with fatty liver disease, study finds

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 01 Dec 2015
Low-carb diet can improve liver function in patients with fatty liver disease, study finds
EDITOR'S NOTE: In this study, the effects of a low-carb diet were investigated specifically in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The title of the article does not specifically address this.

A new study from Dr. David Unwin finds that a low-carbohydrate diet could improve the liver function of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD often occurs in people who are overweight or obese, including people with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, NAFLD can increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke, which makes the condition dangerous for people with type 2 diabetes who already have a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Unwin has previously highlighted the benefits of a low-carb diet for people with type 2 diabetes, including improved blood glucose control, decreased waist circumference and reduced blood pressure.

In his new study, published in the specialist journal Diabesity in Practise, Dr. Unwin selected 69 patients in his practice who had very high levels of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). When GGT levels are high, it suggests the liver is under pressure and could be indicative of drinking too much alcohol or NAFLD.

Dr. Unwin put his patients on a low-carb diet for 13 months. They mainly ate green vegetables, fish, nuts, eggs and meat; reducing their intake of starchy carbs and increasing their healthy fats from olive oil or butter.

"The results were striking," said Dr Unwin. "The first thing that happened was their GGT readings dropped by an average 47 per cent. That makes sense because the liver is the first destination of new glucose supplies."

Other health benefits included reduction in blood sugar levels, weight loss, and improved ratios of "good" HDL to "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Currently, the NHS advocates a low-fat diet to treat NAFLD, but The British Liver Trust (which supported the trial) hopes a low-carb diet could cut premature deaths from NAFLD and believe these findings provide a "very useful insight on how liver function can improve."

Diabetes.co.uk recently launched a free structured education tool called the Low-Carb Program. This program provides a step-by-step guide to following a low-carb diet, and was designed with the support of several leading experts.
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