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How to enjoy delicious meals and reduce risk of fatty liver disease

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Nutritionist researchers have discovered a key way for people with the condition to improve their health. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is attributed to obesity, but having the ailment doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal. Investigators from the University of Illinois, Chicago, found that fasting in between feast days was effective at improving health outcomes.

Feast days meant the participants could eat without restriction; meanwhile, on fasting days, they had to consume 500 calories or less.

People who followed the alternate-day fasting diet, alongside frequent exercise, saw increased insulin sensitivity and decreased liver fat and weight.

The professor of nutrient at the College of Applied Health Sciences, Krista Varady, commented on the findings.

Professor Varady said: “When we compared the results of our study groups, we saw clearly that the most improved patients were in the group that followed the alternate-day fasting diet and exercised five days a week.

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“The people who only dieted or only exercised did not see the same improvements, which reinforces the importance of these two relatively inexpensive lifestyle modifications on overall health and on combating chronic diseases like fatty liver disease.”

For the three-month study, the researchers enrolled 80 people who have non-alcoholic fatty disease.

Participants were randomly places into one of four groups:

  1. An alternate-day fasting group
  2. An aerobic exercise group
  3. A combined group
  4. A control group.

In the diet groups, participants tracked their food intake whereas those in the exercise groups would use an elliptical machine in Varady’s laboratory for one hour, five days a week.

In addition to seeing improved metabolic indicators in the trial, there were also no serious safety events.

The participants were able to safely maintain the diet and exercise regime for the 12-week study.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly common around the world, the Mayo Clinic states.

In the beginning stages of the condition, a person may feel tired and experience discomfort in their upper right abdomen.

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As more fat builds up in the organ, resulting in scar tissue, other symptoms can appear, such as:

  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Red palms
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

Having a high level of fat in the liver is associated with diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, the NHS adds.

“If you’re diagnosed with the condition it’s a good idea to take steps to stop it getting any worse,” the health body says.

There is no specific medication people can take to manage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The best way to prevent further health complications is to make “healthy lifestyle choices”.

Clearly from the research cited earlier, frequent exercise is a key component to reducing adverse health outcomes.

“You should aim for a BMI [body mass index] of 18.5-24.9,” the NHS says, starting that losing weight can help to remove fat from the liver.

The NHS clarifies: “Aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, a week.”

The research paper can be found in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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