The Link Between Fad Diets and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease


Thirty-five percent of all Americans and almost 25% of the entire world population may be unknowingly suffering from a “silent killer.” Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD is occurs when someone has excess fat buildup in the liver. This can cause serious issues for a person such as cirrhosis (scarring and damage to the liver) as well as increasing a person’s risk for liver cancer.

While liver problems are traditionally known to be caused by excess drinking or Hepatitis C, doctors are noticing an increase in patients with this NAFLD. NAFLD can have serious public health issues such as increasing a person’s likelihood for a heart issue or having a stroke. Another insidious issue with NAFLD is that it can be silent for years and usually does not show symptoms until there has been significant liver damage.

Fad Diets Linked to Liver Disease

Many people are often uncertain of exactly how they got the condition, especially since it can silently do damage for years. By the time patients come to their doctors and have blood tests, imaging, and MRI’s done, they may have extensive scarring of the liver. So far, there is no FDA approved drug to cure the disease. Right now, many doctors believe the main way to relieve symptoms is to lose weight because this can reduce fat and inflammation in the liver.

The complicated part is that when people try to lose weight often times they tend to run to fad diets, or diets that are not sustainable long term. They are diets that eliminate foods that have necessary nutrients or even cut out entire food groups.

The Keto diet especially has been singled out as a very restrictive fad diet that can increase the risk of NAFLD. This diet is used to treat epilepsy that does not resolve with medication alone. The Keto diet restricts carbs, and while it allows people to eat “butter, red meat and cheese, it consists of 80% fats. In rodents in the lab, there have been increases in cases of NAFLD while following this diet.

What can you do to prevent NAFLD?

Doctors recommend eating a whole foods and balanced diet. High fiber foods and whole fruits and vegetables: foods like vegetables, lean meats, nuts, eggs, and seeds are recommended. Doctors do recommend the paleo or Mediterranean diet, as these support a more balanced nutritional intake. Also trying to lose a lot of weight quickly is also not positive; quick weight loss is almost always not sustainable and it is better to gradually lose 5%-10% of body weight instead. Doctors also recommend reducing alcohol intake.


To learn more about NAFLD and the danger of fad diets, click here.

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