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Last updated October 12, 2017, originally published August 22, 2010

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist

Fatty liver disease is on the rise in America and around the
world.  Along with increasing levels of obesity and metabolic
syndrome, fatty liver disease is  damaging the health of
millions of Americans.

According to the British Heart Association, between 20%
and 30% of all people living in developed countries have
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In America, that would mean an estimated 60 million of us
have fatty liver disease.   It's deadly. And here's the kicker --
most people who have fatty liver disease don’t even know
they have it.  How can you lower your risk for developing
fatty liver disease? What natural remedies exist to fight this
deadly condition?

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

Alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver
disease are major causes of illness and death in the United
States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or
steatosis, is a condition where fat builds up in the liver of
people who drink little or no alcohol.


We humans are not the only species that suffers from fatty
livers. Ducks and geese also develop fatty livers when they
are force-fed grain and fats daily on their way to becoming
the French delicacy known as "foie gras". In fact, "foie gras"
means "fatty liver" in French.  Unfortunately, if you over-
feed yourself daily with too much grain and fat, you too can
become a waling, talking version of foie gras.]

The non-alcoholic version of the disease is believed to be
caused by poor diet (high fat diets where fat exceeds 30%
of your calories) and sedentary living.

In alcoholic fatty liver disease, the fat build-up is caused by
drinking too much.

Is Fatty Liver Disease Dangerous?

You probably won’t know you have fatty liver disease
because i
t usually causes no signs or symptoms. One of the
signs of liver disease in general is
jaundice --yellowing eyes
--but the sign may or may not be present with fatty liver
disease. In many cases it is harmless – it’s not usual for fat
to build up in the liver but it can be complication-free.

However, the fat that accumulates in the liver may cause
inflammation and scarring and lead to a serious form of fatty
liver disease called "nonalcoholic steatohepatitis". At its most
dangerous, fatty liver disease can cause liver failure

What About Alcohol?

If you drink too much alcohol you are at risk of fatty liver
disease as well as hepatitis and cirrhosis. Heavy drinking can
be the cause of too much fat building up in your liver.

If you stop drinking, fatty liver disease will usually reverse.
The best guidelines remain the same – cut down on heavy
drinking and stop completely if you already have a problem
with your liver.

How Many People Have Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver disease is often referred to as a hidden epidemic.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism, there are around 8 million people with alcoholism
in the US who may have fatty liver disease. That’s in addition
to about 42 million obese individuals who may also be

It’s affecting children too.  The Optimal Weight for Life
program at the Children's Hospital Boston claims fatty liver
disease is becoming increasingly common
even among

Although many adult cases can be caused by alcoholism,
most kids clearly don’t have that problem. Obesity is the key
issue for children. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 2 overweight
American children are thought to be affected by fatty liver
disease, storing up a potential time-bomb for liver disease in
their adult lives.  

Top 10 Natural Remedies for Fatty Liver Disease

1. Eat a Low-Carb Diet

A low carbohydrate diet, and specifically a diet low in fast-
release or simple carbs, can help halt fatty liver disease in its

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism, a low carbohydrate/ higher fatty acid diet works
on the genes in the liver to inhibit the activities of fatty liver
disease-causing enzymes.

A 2007 study from the Optimal Weight for Life program at
the Children's Hospital Boston backs up this assertion. The
study shows that a diet rich in carbohydrates with a high
glycemic index (GI) – white bread, white rice, concentrated
sugar and all those nasties - is not only bad for the waistline
but also bad for your liver. In the study, one group of mice
was fed a high GI diet and the other a low GI diet containing
the same amount of calories and fat.

After six months the high GI mice had double the amount of
fat flowing through their bodies, their blood and into their
liver although they weighed the same.

Skip the fast-release carbohydrates and instead fill your
plate with vegetables, fruits, beans and unprocessed or
brown grains, along with a healthy intake of protein and the
right kind of fat. (Read more about
low carb diets and
weight control.)

Choose The Right Kind Of Fat

Dietary fat plays an important role in the development of
fatty liver disease and it’s not necessarily the part you’d
imagine. Research from the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism shows that saturated fatty acids have
protective effect on the liver. Phospholipids such as
soybean extract have been noted to prevent alcohol-induced
fibrosis and cirrhosis in baboons.

Fish oil is especially protective of your liver. It’s still not clear
exactly how much of an effect fat has on fatty liver disease.

But according to a 2009 study from the University of
Barcelona, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can protect the
liver from steatosis. “Our study shows for the first time that
lipids called protectins and resolvins derived from Omega-3
fatty acids can actually reduce the instance of liver
complications, such as hepatic steatosis and insulin
resistance, in obese people,” reported researcher Joan Claria.

The study looked at a group of mice on an omega-3 enriched
and a control diet. After five weeks the mice given the
omega-3-rich diet had less hepatic inflammation and
improved insulin tolerance.  So, load up on the salmon,
walnuts and other
foods that are high in omega-3 fatty
acids. And, invest in a good omega-3 fatty acid supplement
every day.

Lose Weight to Prevent Fatty Liver Disease

Losing a few pounds an help to prevent fatty liver disease.
Turning down second helpings to gain a slimmer figure can
help prevent fatty liver disease.

If you’re overweight,you are more at risk of having a fatty
liver, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism. The double whammy comes if you regularly
drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol and you’
re overweight. You are storing up problems for yourself in
the form of hepatitis and cirrhosis caused by chronic alcohol
consumption plus obesity.

A 2009 study from Saint Louis University found that weight
loss of at least 9 percent helped reverse the formation of
non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. 50 patients consumed a 1,400
calorie diet and were monitored for 36 weeks with liver

Patients who lost 5 percent or more of body weight over
nine months showed a marked improvement in insulin
resistance and steatosis and those who went the extra mile
and lost at least 9 percent showed liver damage reversal. So
shed the pounds for a lighter life and liver. (Read more
how to stay active all your life.)

Cut Down on Fructose

At the same time as fatty liver disease is on the increase in
the U.S., so too has consumption of high fructose corn syrup
gone through the roof. We consume fructose mainly in the
form of soft drinks. Could there be a link between
soft drink
consumption and an increased risk of fatty liver disease?
Research from the University of Florida, says so.

In a 2000 study from the University of Florida, patients with
proven fatty liver disease were examined for full dietary
history and monitored for body mass index. Consumption of
fructose was nearly two- to three-fold higher in patients
with fatty liver disease than the control group, suggesting
that the development of fatty liver disease may be associated
with an over-indulgence in fructose.

Similar findings come from a 2010 study from the Cincinnati
Children's Hospital Medical Center. Researchers discovered
that a diet high in fructose, sucrose, and trans fats not only
makes people fatter but leads to an increased incidence of
fatty liver disease with scar tissue.

“Fructose consumption accounts for approximately 10.2
percent of calories in the average diet in the United States
and has been linked to many health problems, including
obesity, cardiovascular disease and liver disease,” reports
researcher Dr. Kohli. The study looked at mice fed normal
diets and diets of fructose and sucrose-enriched water along
with trans fats. Their livers were analyzed for fat content
and damage and researchers found mice fed high calorie
diets (trans fat alone or a combination of trans fat and high
fructose) became obese and had fatty liver disease.  

Take Vitamin E to Help Fatty Liver Disease

A 2010 study from the Saint Louis University Liver Center
found that Vitamin E improved the livers of patients with
non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Those suffering from non-
alcoholic steatohepatitis were given either 800IU of Vitamin
E or a placebo for the 96-week study. 43 percent of those
treated with Vitamin E showed significant improvements in
the health of their liver, compared with just 19 percent of
those in the placebo group.

Step Up Your Exercise

Hitting the treadmill or taking an extra areobics class can
fight liver disease.  Whether you lose weight or not, an
increase in physical activity benefits your liver.

Researchers in a 2009 study from the Sydney West Area
Health Service in Australia examined how patients with non-
alcoholic fatty liver disease reacted to an increase in exercise.
141 participants were split into a control group, a low-
intensity lifestyle intervention group, and a moderate-
intensity lifestyle intervention group.

Walking was the main activity for the intervention groups
and the patients were encouraged to walk or exercise for at
least 150 minutes a week. After three months, those who
were active for more than 150 minutes per week, and who
stepped up their fitness levels, showed improvements in liver
enzymes and other metabolic indicators whether or not they
shed the pounds.

Patients who maintained a sedentary lifestyle throughout the
study showed no improvement in fatty liver disease. So turn
off the TV and get active instead.


A 2009 study from Finland reached the same conclusion
about how exercise affects the amount of fat in your liver.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of
Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland looked at 16 pairs of twins for
32 years. In each pair, one twin maintained an active lifestyle
while the other twin was sedentary. What they found was
startling. The sedentary twins had 170% more fat in their
livers than the active twins.

But Don’t Stop Exercising Suddenly

If you’ve raised your exercise levels you’ll be seeing benefits
in terms of your fitness and your lowered risk of fatty liver
disease. But stopping can reverse all your progress.

A 2008 study from the University of Missouri suggests that
giving up and returning to the couch can quickly put you
right back in the danger zone for fatty liver disease. “We
found that the cessation of daily exercise dramatically
activates specific precursors known to promote hepatic
steatosis,” said Jamal Ibdah, professor of medicine and
medical pharmacology. Researchers gave obese rats access
to running wheels for 16 weeks. They then locked the
wheels, and sent the rats back to a sedentary condition.

After only 7 days the rats began showing signs of those
factors responsible for the development of hepatic steatosis.
In the rats tested immediately at the end of the 16 weeks of
running, there were no signs of hepatic steatosis.

So make sure to keep up the good work once you’ve started,
for the sake of your liver.

Reduce Cholesterol In Your Diet

A low-cholesterol diet can help to reverse fatty liver disease.
Cholesterol is the dense white fat found in animal proteins.

Research from a 2006 report from the Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Cientificas in Barcelona suggests that a low
cholesterol diet, or cholesterol-lowering drugs, may help halt
fatty liver disease. The research showed that an
accumulation of cholesterol in mouse livers led to the loss of
an important antioxidant. The cells lacking the antioxidant
are left at risk of inflammatory factors that damage the liver.

Mice with high levels of cholesterol in their livers became
increasingly susceptible to two inflammatory factors called
cytokines, leading to increased incidence of the condition.
Try these
foods to lower the amount of cholesterol in your

9. Cure Your Sleep Apnea

Getting your beauty sleep benefits the body, the mind ---and
now the liver. A 2009 study from the University of Bern,
Switzerland, has found a link between obstructive sleep
apnea and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Mice kept for a
week in low-oxygen atmospheres showed increased levels of
fat and inflammation in their livers.

How does this link to sleep? Sleep apnea occurs when the
airways relax in sleep, causing you to briefly stop breathing.
Researchers kept the mice in a low oxygen environment in
order to mimic this effect. When the mice were exposed to
low oxygen levels, the genes that controlled fat synthesis in
the liver were more active while those that controlled fat
breakdown seemed to doze off. (Read more about
causes of
and remedies for sleep apnea.)

Just For Men: Increase Testosterone Levels

A 2009 study from Bayer Schering Pharma in Berlin
discovered that for middle-aged and older men with low
testosterone levels, long-term testosterone replacement
therapy markedly improves fatty liver disease.

The study looked at 122 testosterone-deficient men, average
age 59 and a half, and found that restoring testosterone
significantly improved liver function during the first 12 to 18
months of therapy and stabilized it for the remainder of the
study. “Physicians often are reluctant to prescribe
testosterone for conditions not related to sexual function,”
reported the study's co-author, Farid Saad, PhD. “However,
our study shows that testosterone has a much wider
therapeutic role than just for improving sexual desire and
erectile function.”

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Eating a low carb diet can help fight fatty liver disease.