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Love Your Liver


Red meat increases liver disease risk

What is a disease that affects up to 25% of people in the U.S. and has little to no symptoms until it has reached the advanced stages? Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) or fatty liver is a condition where more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight is fat. Some fat buildup in the liver is normal, but excess buildup is not. If left unchecked, Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), fibrosis or advanced liver disease also known as cirrhosis may develop.

NAFLD is often found in people who are overweight or obese or with diabetes. On the bright side, fatty liver can be reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes eating right, exercising and losing weight. If you’re at risk, The American Liver Foundation recommends starting with the goal of losing 5-10% of your body weight. When it comes to what you eat, one study, published in Journal of Hepatology links NAFLD to the Western diet and the high amounts of red and processed meat that are often consumed. Just about 800 subjects between 40-70 years old underwent extensive screenings, including colonoscopy, ultrasound, food frequency and detailed meat consumption questionnaires; 38% were diagnosed with NAFLD. They found that high meat eaters had an elevated body mass index, ate more calories and had a worse metabolic profile than those that ate less red meat. Ultimately, they found that eating large amounts or red and processed meats is independently associated with NAFLD.

Why is this important? Often, when we try to lose weight, carbs are eliminated and replaced with any and all kinds of protein – core principles in the Atkins, Dukan and Ketogenic diets. This study focuses on the importance of maintaining a well-balanced diet and highlights protein choices. As noted in the Mediterranean and Nordic diets, choosing lean proteins such as fish and poultry including chicken or turkey are healthy choices that can be part of a weight loss diet and possibly reduce your risk for NAFLD.

Published August 1, 2018

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