- A new review found that coffee, fiber, and following a Mediterranean diet can help manage nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
- The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, and grains, which positively impact liver health.
- Coffee can have therapeutic effects on overall health, including the liver, thanks to some of its key compounds.
- Fiber is beneficial for treating NAFLD due to its association with decreased obesity and promoting weight management.
According to a review published in the journal Nutrients, there are numerous dietary approaches to help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Specifically, the researchers concluded that coffee, high-fiber foods and the Mediterranean diet were beneficial.
NAFLD is the leading cause of chronic liver disease, and to date, there is no standard treatment method to manage the harmful effects of this health condition. This review aimed to find a dietary strategy to improve liver steatosis.
Researchers conducted a thorough search of data in MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. They found that a hypocaloric Mediterranean diet had a positive impact on NAFLD. Coffee may also be able to help manage this disease.
Additionally, the gut microbiome has been shown to affect NAFLD. Therefore, fiber consumption is recommended.
Nutrition plays a significant role in preventing the development of NAFLD.
“Telomeres consist of copies of six base repeats which are found at the ends of chromosomes and are important in protecting the chromosome tips,” Dr. Bubu Banini, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, not involved in this research, told Medical News Today.
Healthy lifestyle habits can also delay the onset or prevent NAFLD.
Dr. Banini explained:
“Telomere length is shorter after each cell division. When telomeres become excessively short, a program is activated in the cell that results in cell death. Healthy lifestyle factors including lower BMI and more exercise, which are the tenets of NAFLD management, are associated with longer telomere health.”
Following a diet that focuses on fresh, whole foods including vegetables, fruits, and grains can make a major difference in liver health.
“The Mediterranean diet encourages a high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, nut and legumes, extra virgin olive oil, and moderate intake of fish, meats, and dairy products,” said Dr. Banini. “These foods provide monosaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber and vegetable proteins that are beneficial in avoiding NAFLD progression.”
A Mediterranean diet is comprised of primarily plant-based foods that are low in red meat, high in olive oil with a moderate intake of poultry, eggs, and seafood.
Unlike a Western-style diet, it is also low in fructose, a molecule that has been shown to potentiate the pathology of fatty liver disease, explained Dr. Vikas Gupta, a gastroenterologist at Yale New Haven Health, and not involved in the current study.
While a host of genetic and environmental factors play a large role in the development of fatty liver disease, studies have shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet can reduce the amount of fat and inflammation in the liver and can be part of a medical treatment plan for fatty liver disease, Dr. Gupta added.
The association between high fiber diet and reduced NAFLD appears to be due largely to reduced obesity, Dr. Banini explained.
Yet is seems likely that the biological mechanisms potentially contributing to this association may include the regulation of gut microbiota by dietary fiber, and the production of short chain fatty acids which reduce inflammatory responses and protect against NFLD.
“Because of the high intake of processed foods and meats, western diets are lacking in fiber. Poor fiber intake is associated with a number of diseases. Increasing one’s fiber can help to reduce calorie intake and promote a healthy gut microbiome, which could help to offset some of the negative effects of a western diet,” said Dr. Gupta.
Perhaps more surprising is the finding that coffee could also help fight NAFLD. So why might it be beneficial
Dr. Banini explained that “coffee consumption increases levels of aquaporin8, which is involved in transport of water and other molecules across the cell membrane and maintains gut health and homeostasis.”
Coffee is also contain some compounds that could have a therapeutic effects.
“Association studies have demonstrated a protective effect in NAFLD, potentially by modulating the gut microbiome,” Dr. Gupta noted. “Because coffee intake is correlated with decreased NAFLD and liver scarring, drinking up to 3 cups per day is recommended in the absence of contraindications.”
Yet Dr. Banini suggested viewing the study findings with a degree of caution, as it is not without its limitation.
“The study is a scoping review hence does not include risk of bias assessment of the studies included, or discuss the underlying pathophysiological basis for findings in the studies reported,” she pointed out.