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Short-term fasting and a low-carbohydrate diet are effective treatments for fatty liver disease


Today supporters of the Dietary Science Foundation can be happy and proud. For the first time we’re able to present the results of a study we have helped fund: the study of diet for fatty liver disease. It has shown that 5:2 and LCHF diets can counteract fatty liver, thereby preventing liver cancer, cirrhosis and type 2 diabetes.

Ever since starting the Dietary Science Foundation in 2014 we have yearned for the day when we could share the results of a study we helped fund. And today is the day! The results of the study of diet for fatty liver have been published in the journal JHEP reports. To our delight they show that both of the dietary treatments the researchers tested—a reduced-calorie LCHF diet and a 5:2 diet—had good effect.

“One of the basic questions we wanted to answer was if a high fat diet such as LCHF would be less effective for treating a fat-related disorder like fatty liver. Our main conclusion is that the diets are equally effective,” says gastroenterology specialist Magnus Holmer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who led the study.

LCHF and 5:2-diet halved the amount of liver fat

The study included a total of 74 patients and ran for three months. Participants who received support in following either a 5:2 diet or a calorie-controlled LCHF diet halved their amount of liver fat on average, and about half of them were cured of the disease. In the control group, liver fat was reduced by 16 percent, and just 8 percent were cured.

These are important results. The number of people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has risen dramatically in the wake of the obesity epidemic. Although it is a common condition that increases the risk of getting other serious diseases, there is no effective medical treatment to date. Admittedly, doctors have long known that fatty liver can be cured by weight reduction and keeping the weight off, and patients are recommended to reduce calories and cut down their intake of alcohol and sugar. But few people manage to reverse their disease.

New tools for managing fatty liver disease

That both of these diets have a positive effect means that patients can now be given more tools to help them in their weight loss efforts. At the end of the study, participants were encouraged to follow the diet they were most comfortable with. Magnus Holmer met with the participants one year later:

“Some of the participants chose a combination of LCHF and 5:2. You should do what works for you and your well-being. Some people have physically demanding jobs, which makes the 5:2 diet harder to follow. For those who prefer a vegan diet LCHF is not an option. A dietary treatment needs to work for the individual patient, so a pragmatic approach is necessary,” Magnus Holmer says.

Kerstin Brismar, professor of diabetes research at the Karolinska Institute and chair of the Dietary Science Foundation’s scientific advisory board thinks the study contributes important knowledge to health care:

“Many of my patients have dangerously high levels of liver fat and there are no drugs that can help them. This study shows that you can quickly reduce the amount of fat in the liver using diet, which will prevent high blood sugar and high blood pressure, liver damage and cancer.”

If you would like to read a more in-depth analysis of the study, you can find it here.

Your support allow us to back high-quality research

Our warmest thanks to all our wonderful supporters who make it possible for us to give grants to important dietary research. A special thank you goes to monthly donors and company partners. Your loyal support allows us to back high-quality research in the long term. If you’re not a monthly donor yet, you can become one via this link!

Next in line for publication is the study of diet for obesity. The researchers will submit it around Easter. It will then be peer-reviewed, so the results will likely be available closer to the fall. We are looking forward to that!

Would you like to help us support independent dietary research and prevent ill health? Please become a monthly donor, company partner or make a one-off donation. You can follow our work on Facebook. Thank you for your interest!