Low Carbohydrate Diet Helpful in Treating NAFLD

According to a recent article, a low carbohydrate intervention used to reduce type 2 diabetes and for prediabetes regression, may be a treatment option for patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which there is an excess of fat in the liver that is not associated with the consumption of alcohol. This is an umbrella condition for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and simple fatty liver. 


Initial symptoms include fatigue and pain in the upper right abdomen. As the condition progresses, symptoms will turn into an enlarged spleen, swelling in the abdomen, enlarged blood vessels, jaundice, and red palms.

There are also complications that come with NAFLD, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and cardiovascular disease. 

How It Helps

The low carbohydrate intervention is a low-carb diet, meaning foods that are high in carbohydrates are limited in a patient’s diet. This showed an improvement in the liver enzymes and noninvasive NAFLD liver surrogate markers in actual patients. These patients were in an outpatient and virtual clinical setting. It is important to note that the improvements of the liver markers is dependent on how much weight loss a patient manages during the intervention.


1,526 patients were assessed by Shaminie Athinarayanan, PhD, associate director of clinical research at Virta Health and her colleagues. 44% of patients were female, 90% were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and 10% were diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Each patient maintained a low carbohydrate diet for one year at least.

The researchers discovered decreases in weight, fasting glucose, and triglycerides in the patients. This meant there is a relationship between weight loss in patients and assessed liver markers. According to a presentation from the researchers, 55.2% of the patients assessed had weight loss of more than 7% and around 66% were able to achieve weight loss of over 5%.

The research team came to the conclusion that the amount of weight a patient with NAFLD is able to lose is directly associated with how much their liver markers improve. With the weight loss comes improvements in liver enzymes and noninvasive NAFLD surrogate markers.

This treatment is more flexible for patients since it is a lifestyle change that is a telemedical intervention and is easily implemented in an outpatient format. This intervention is meant to complement the liver specialty clinics for the management and treatment of patients with NAFLD.

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