A diet high in animal or plant protein, and relatively low in carb, has been shown to significantly reduce liver fat in people with type 2 diabetes patients and alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD is a disease characterised by excessive fat content in the liver, which is associated with increased risks for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Previous studies have shown that diets that are higher in carbohydrates, high in animal protein and high in fat tend to increase liver fat.
In this study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, German researchers placed 37 patients with type 2 diabetes and NAFLD on two different high protein, moderate fat and low carbohydrate diets for six weeks.
Calories weren’t restricted and were split between 30 per cent of energy from protein, 30 per cent from fat, and 40 per cent from carbohydrates – which is lower in carbohydrate than the 45-60 per cent recommended by Public Health England.
One diet was high in animal protein and consisted of consuming meals rich in meat and dairy foods, while the other was based upon plant protein obtained from legumes.
The study indicates that no matter what the protein source is, a higher protein content in the diet, in combination with lower carbohydrate, can significantly reduce liver fat.
Specifically, after six weeks, liver fat content decreased by 48 per cent in the animal protein group, and by 35.7 per cent in the plant-based protein group.
Nine patients (three from the animal protein group and six from the plant protein group) even saw their degree of hepatic fat content drop below what is considered as having NAFLD, meaning that they no longer had it.
These reductions were unrelated to variation in the participants’ body weight, that the researchers monitored throughout the experiment.
Keeping a diet rich in protein also led to changes to a hormone, called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), normally activated in a fasted state, that is involved with fat breakdown in the liver.
It has long been suggested that NAFLD is the manifestation of insulin resistance in the liver. Here, participants on either diet showed improved insulin sensitivity.
According to these results, getting NAFLD patients to change their diet towards a high protein, low carb diet early on after diagnosis could prevent complications from happening.

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