In a recent study from Maastricht University, researchers found increasing the amount of protein in the diet may reduce the liver’s fat content and lower the risk of diabetes in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD — sometimes referred to as a “fatty liver” — occurs when more than 5 percent of the liver’s total weight is made up of fatty tissue. Excessive fat in the liver can lead to scarring, which may increase the risk of liver cancer or liver failure.
People with NAFLD are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop NAFLD.
In fact, an estimated 70% of people with type 2 diabetes also have a fatty liver. Obesity is also a major risk factor for NAFLD.
Previous studies have found that short-term protein supplementation helps reduce the fat content in the liver, but there have been few studies on the long-term effects of protein on NAFLD.
In the study, the team aimed to determine the long-term impact of dietary protein on a fatty liver after weight loss.
Twenty-five adult volunteers — 15 of whom had been previously diagnosed with NAFLD — participated in a low-calorie diet for eight weeks to lose up to 8% of their body weight.
After weight loss, the volunteers were directed to maintain their weight for two years and to follow either a moderate- or high-protein diet averaging from 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.
After two years of maintaining their weight loss, the team found the increase in dietary protein was linked to the reduced liver fat content in the volunteers.
In addition, more than half of the participants who were previously diagnosed with NAFLD no longer had a fatty liver.
These findings stress the clinical implications and potential benefits of increased protein intake after weight loss for people with NAFLD at risk to develop diabetes.
If you care about liver health, please read studies about this nutrient supplement may help treat fatty liver disease and findings of this diet cuts non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by half.
For more information about liver diseases, please see recent studies about even mild fatty liver disease may raise early death risk and results showing that many middle-aged people have this dangerous liver disease without knowing it.
The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. One author of the study is Mathijs Drummen.
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