In a recent study from the University of California San Diego, researchers found that a Western diet rich in calories, fat, and cholesterol, can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which progressed to liver cancer, chronic kidney, and heart disease.
The findings showed that by simply changing the Western diet to a normal chow diet, where calories are derived from proteins and carbohydrates rather than fats, with no cholesterol, fatty liver disease and liver fibrosis were improved and cancer progression was prevented.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease worldwide.
NAFLD patients are at higher risk of developing non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which causes severe and chronic liver inflammation, fibrosis, and liver damage.
A patient with NASH is believed to be at high risk for developing a form of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Apart from lifestyle interventions, there are no approved treatments for NASH. A liver transplant is sometimes the only remedy.
The risk factors for NASH (obesity, type-2 diabetes, and gene mutations like PNPLA3) and HCC (Hepatitis B and C infections, alcohol overconsumption, and cirrhosis) are well known.
But the precise mechanism of how simple fatty liver progresses to chronic inflammation, liver fibrosis, NASH, and HCC is not known.
In mice no longer fed the Western diet, researchers also found a decrease in liver fat and improvement in glucose tolerance—an indicator of diabetes—and several genes and cytokines that were affected in NASH returned to normal levels and function.
In addition, they found key changes in the gut microbiome that modulate liver disease progression.
Although NASH is a liver disease, the results show its development and progression are orchestrated by multiple organs.
Researchers also compared mouse model findings to human patient datasets, showing that gene expression changes in mouse livers were similar to human counterparts.
If you care about liver health, please read studies that people with diabetes need to prevent this dangerous liver disease and the 5 big myths about liver detoxing you should know.
For more information about liver health, please see recent studies about oral diseases linked to a 75% increase in liver cancer risk, and results showing a new way to treat chronic liver disease.
The study was conducted by Debanjan Dhar, Ph.D. et al and published in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
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