A recent study focused on observing the effects of sugar-free diets on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The findings of the study noted a potential benefit for children affected by NAFLD, while more research is needed for adequate information on adults. Currently, it is estimated that about 24% of adults and 10% of children in the United States have NAFLD.
This could be important as there isn’t currently a way to medically reduce fat buildup in the liver, a hallmark of NAFLD. Fat buildup in the liver can be reduced over time in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, but no medications or procedures can lower fat levels. NAFLD can be painful and is a risk factor for developing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among others.
What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
NAFLD is exactly what its name suggests–excessive fat buildup in the liver. Too much fat in the liver can lead to injuries over time. According to Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic, NAFLD can manifest itself in many ways:
- Chronic exhaustion or tiredness
- Muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain/discomfort in the liver area
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
While most cases of NAFLD don’t require medical attention or procedures, untreated NAFLD can lead to liver failure or liver cancer (among other serious conditions). Even though NAFLD is medically untreatable, there are ways to mitigate risks or reverse the levels of fat present in the liver.
Treating Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
While there are no procedures or medications available to help with NAFLD, there are everyday things people can do to avoid it or slow/reverse the progression of the disease. Things that can help treat NAFLD include:
- Regular exercise
- Losing weight
- Dietary changes
- Treating other medical conditions properly (diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure)
- Avoiding alcohol
- Lowering cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels
While no medications are available to directly treat NAFLD, medications that help with blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions can help with general health, mitigating the potential risks of NAFLD.
Benefits of Decreasing Sugar in Your Diet
For some people, decreasing the number of high-sugar foods and beverages consumed may be suggested by a healthcare practitioner. This may especially be true for people who have diabetes. Trying to avoid sugar altogether (i.e., a sugar-free diet) can be particularly hard to achieve, as many foods have some level of sugar, including fruit and some fresh products. However, some of these also provide beneficial nutrients. Therefore, it is important to think about how to decrease the foods that have mainly sugar and no/limited beneficial nutrients and focus on replacing them with foods that are high in beneficial nutrients like fiber. Talking with a dietitian can help you decide on the types of foods and beverages to consume in order to increase the healthfulness of your diet.
High-sugar diets can lead to many conditions and general health issues. Diets that are extremely high in processed sugar have a much higher chance of leading to NAFLD (along with diabetes and other health conditions).
Decreasing foods that are high in sugar may also help with weight loss and lower BMI levels, as long as overall calories in the diet also are decreased, which may help reverse the progression of NAFLD.
Research at Biofortis
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