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Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Fatty Liver' Made Worse By A Low-Fat, Not Low-Carb Diet


A "fatty liver" like this not caused by fat, but rather carb intake

I just love bringing up common myths about livin' la vida low-carb and shooting them down with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If we are ever going to convince people that this way of eating is indeed the healthy nutritional approach that we claim it is, then educating them over and over again with solid evidence until it finally sinks in should be our life's mission. It's my distinct pleasure to do just that on a daily basis!

Such is the case today with an issue I've never really addressed before in the more than 1700 blog posts I have written over the past two years. But a recent e-mail from a reader has given me the perfect opportunity to address this issue directly and provide some useful information for you, a friend, or family member who may have similar concerns.

Here's what my reader wrote to me in her e-mail:

I am concerned about my "fatty liver" problem. I've contacted several people about this, but I haven't gotten a response. Can you help me? My doctor tells me it's not a big deal, but my liver function tests keep coming back elevated. Of course, his recommendation is for me to go on a low-fat diet. Now I'm very confused. I do best on the low-carb lifestyle, but I'm scared that I will damage my liver eating this way. With all the people you know, has anyone ever talked about a "fatty liver" being a side effect of low-carbing?

The dreaded "fatty liver" issue certainly deserves some quality space here at my blog and I'm happy to share what I know about this very serious medical condition.

For those of you who are not familiar with what this is, a "fatty liver" is known in medical circles as Non-Alcoholic Steatosis, aka non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can then lead to a much more serious medical problem called cirrhosis which is the precursor to liver failure. If your liver shuts down, then you need a transplant ASAP or you will die.

Currently, nearly one-fourth of Americans are believed to have a "fatty liver" and it occurs most often in males who are obese and/or diabetic. It is estimated that by the year 2020 non-alcoholic liver failure will be the #1 reason for liver transplants in the United States. But the sad part is liver donations are in short supply which makes them very expensive to obtain. Plus there may not be enough to meet the rising demand.

This possible life-threatening health issue needs to be taken more seriously if we are going to prevent certain catastrophe from happening in a little more than a decade from now. What's amazing is the fact that a "fatty liver" is actually made worse not by the consumption of the much-vilified saturated fat (no, contrary to popular belief, a "fatty liver" is not created by fat consumption), but rather with something even more devious and dangerous to your health--CARBOHYDRATES!

Specifically, I'm referring to those starchy high-carb foods like those cereals being touted for weight loss and other such crazy whole grain products that have been heavily marketed to the public as "healthy." Even the popular and convenient cereal bars are destructive to your health no matter what their manufacturers tell you is good about them in their advertising.

Interestingly, a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that the traditional high-carb, low-fat diet recommendation for obese patients suffering from a "fatty liver" actually INCREASES their risk of liver inflammation SEVEN-FOLD compared to the obese patients placed on a low-carb, high-fat diets which were actually found to be "protective" and even reversed the progression of the "fatty liver." WHOA, that's a major finding!

These "fatty" deposits on the liver can indeed be improved by simply lowering the insulin levels in the body. How do you do that? By lowering your consumption of refined carbohydrates like you do when you are livin' la vida low-carb. Cut out the sugar, refined carbohydrates, and bleached flour from your diet. In fact, any foods containing added sugars and even those so-called healthy whole grains should be removed from your diet. Don't get fooled into thinking you can have them just because they are promoted as "healthy." Clearly, they are NOT!

It's a good idea to do this recommendation regardless of why you are livin' la vida low-carb, but make sure to eat protein with every meal you consume throughout the day. Consult with your physician or dietitian about what amount would be best for you in treating your "fatty liver."

For more info, check out these studies on low-carb diets and a "fatty liver":

- The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Pilot Study
- The fat-derived hormone adiponectin alleviates alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases in mice
- Dietary Composition and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome in Patients With NAFLD
- The effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on the nonalcoholic fatty liver in morbidly obese patients before bariatric surgery

So, to my reader who was concerned about causing damage to her liver with a low-carb diet because she has a "fatty liver," I think the better question she and others with NAFLD should be asking themselves is how much damage is that high-carb, low-fat diet recommended by her doctor to treat this condition harming her, hmmm? There's some food for thought!

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12 Comments:

Blogger William said...

Even more specifically, fatty liver disease is caused by fructose. If this person who sent the email for whatever reason doesn't commit to a low carb diet, the absolute least he or she should do is cut out fructose.

I have no references for this other than the fact that Dr MR Eades addressed it in a blog post critiquing the notorious Super Size me documentary. Spurlock experienced a fattening of his liver and blamed it on all the dietary fat, when in truth he also consumed a significantly increased amount of sugar as well, much of it coming from fructose.

4/13/2007 12:13 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The clear proof of this in practice is that force-feeding of grain is exactly what is used to fatten geese livers for pate. This has been practiced for centuries, and therefore is seemingly a widely accepted truth in food production. No, animals are not radically different in biology than humans, our animal nature is little different from theirs. So how does science end up with the opposite conclusion to what experience proves to be true over centuries of practice?

4/13/2007 8:31 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hamlin said...

" just love bringing up common myths about livin' la vida Atkins and shooting them down with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If we are ever going to convince people that this way of eating is indeed the healthy nutritional approach that we claim it is, then educating them over and over again with solid evidence until it finally sinks in should be our life's mission. It's my distinct pleasure to do just that on a daily basis!"

Fixed. =)

4/14/2007 1:35 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

And once again, real science proves that all the low-fat, high-carb nonsense out there is simply detrimental to anyones health. Excellent post, Jimmy!

4/14/2007 3:47 AM  
Blogger Deborah said...

Jimmy, thank you so much for adressing the fatty liver issue. I was hospitalized almost a year ago with severe kidney infections and it was discovered that I had fatty liver. At the time I feared it might be alcohol induced. I quit drinking (no problem) and put myself on Atkins and lost 60 lbs. After reading Sugar Shock I'm convinced it was the high fructose corn syrup in the grenadine that I put into the drink. Bennet said the man made frusctose is not recognized by the body, not offered to the cells, and goes right to the liver to be made into fat. Being healthy now, the Doc won't let me get a CT scan to determine if my liver is better, (sound familiar?) so I'm delighted to see these studies confirm my own intuition.

4/14/2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

"I just love bringing up common myths about livin' la vida NO-CARB and shooting them down with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If we are ever going to convince people that this way of eating is indeed the healthy nutritional approach that we claim it is, then educating them over and over again with solid evidence until it finally sinks in should be our life's mission. It's my distinct pleasure to do just that on a daily basis!"

Fixed especially for Jeff Hamlin. :P

4/14/2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

I've found from my experience with low fat and low carb that fat problems in your body are more related to carb intake than fat intake. Whether it's excess body fat, triglycerides, fatty liver, etc, it's the sugar stupid, not the fat. When will they ever quit making false assumptions and get with the facts?

4/14/2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hamlin said...

Heh heh, Jimmy that's a good one! ;)

Psst....don't tell anyone, but I am still bogged down by carb addiction a fair bit.

4/15/2007 12:54 AM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

Jimmy,

I have a success story for you.

I got my parents on to Atkins. I convinced them and bought them the book.

My father's 20 year battle with Fatty liver, was gone within a couple of months.

He had tried all the ways the Doctor prescibed, by Atkins was the thing that fixed it.

Dave

4/17/2007 1:08 AM  
Blogger mark said...

I am 29 years old. Before I gained all my weight I was 300lbs and list 130 lbs in 4 months on the atkins diet.... I got out of hand gained it back and my fatty liver is back.. I tried low fat calorie intake garbage and it didn't work... I need to put my liver back to normal and I'm coming back home to the low carb life stile... it can save your life, any questions contact me msoler29@yahoo.com god bless all.

12/07/2009 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Mollie said...

Jimmy,
I understand the points you have made in this blog entry, but I feel you have overlooked a serious issue regarding fatty livers. I'm a very small person and have been doing low carb for years not for the weight loss, but because of a gluten allergy and lactose allergy. A couple of months ago I started upping my intake of protien (animal protien in particular) and virtually overnight I gained around six pounds. The weight gain was all water weight, which I was retaining due to an overload of protien. My liver simply couldn't handle the amount of protien I was consuming. People who have fatty livers should watch the amount of animal protien they consume, because it can cause more damage to the liver. Low carb diets are certainly not to blame for a fatty liver, and I agree that it is low fat/ high carb diets that would do the most damage, but it should not be overlooked that too much protien can aggrivate liver problems, as it did in my case.

2/04/2010 3:58 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS Mollie! But that's not at all surprising regarding your protein intake. Protein can be converted into glucose by the liver which is why you need to consume higher amounts of dietary fat when you reduce carbs and moderate your protein.

2/04/2010 4:01 PM  

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