Fatty liver disease is becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world, affecting about 25% of people globally.
It is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other disorders characterized by insulin resistance.
What’s more, if fatty liver isn’t addressed, it may progress to more serious liver disease and other health problems.
There are several factors that may cause or contribute to developing fatty liver and one of them is frequent intake of refined carbs promotes liver fat storage, especially when high amounts are consumed by overweight or insulin-resistant individuals.
It may seem as though the most logical way to address fatty liver would be to cut back on dietary fat.
However, researchers report only about 16% of liver fat in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease comes from dietary fat. Rather, most liver fat comes from fatty acids in their blood, and about 26% of liver fat is formed in a process called de novo lipogenesis (DNL).
During DNL, excess carbs are converted into fat. The rate at which DNL occurs increases with high intakes of fructose-rich foods and beverages.
In one study, obese adults who consumed a diet high in calories and refined carbs for three weeks experienced a 27% increase in liver fat, on average, even though their weight only increased by 2%.
Studies have shown that consuming diets low in refined carbs may help reverse NAFLD. These include low-carb, Mediterranean and low-glycemic index diets.
In one study, liver fat and insulin resistance decreased significantly more when people consumed a Mediterranean diet than when they consumed a low-fat, high-carb diet, even though weight loss was similar on both diets.
Although both Mediterranean and very low-carb diets have been shown to reduce liver fat on their own, one study that combined them showed very impressive results.
In this study, 14 obese men with NAFLD followed a Mediterranean ketogenic diet. After 12 weeks, 13 of the men experienced reductions in liver fat, including three who achieved complete resolution of fatty liver.