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High Fat Diet vs. High Sugar Diet: Which is More Likely to Cause Fatty Liver Disease?

By Alissa Vieth on August 29 2018 | Physical Health

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the initial, reversible stage of liver disease and is marked by an accumulation of fat in the liver. It may develop in people who drink little or no alcohol.

NAFLD is a progressive disease of the buildup of extra fat in the liver that may cause the liver to swell. Fat accumulates in the liver not a result of eating a high-fat diet but more likely caused by chronically high blood sugars and insulin resistance.

The livers function is to process everything we eat or drink and filter any harmful substances from the blood. This process is interrupted if too much fat is in the liver.

Fatty liver disease can often be reversed and the liver can be restored to full health through diet and lifestyle changes.

 

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Preventive health and early detection saves lives. Modifying your diet and lifestyle should include the following strategies:

 

Reduce refined grains

  • Replace processed food, fast food, commercial bakery goods, and sweets with unprocessed foods high in fiber, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Limit intake of high glycemic index foods like white bread and crackers, refined breakfast cereals and white rice – as these food spike glucose and insulin levels
  • Try our free 30 day no-refined sugar challenge to get a head start

 

Choose fibre-rich whole grains

  • Pick options such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, 100% whole grain bread and cereals and oatmeal –as these foods gradually raise blood glucose

 

Reduce added sugar

  • Limit added sugar to <25 g = 6 teaspoons
  • Remember – sugar is sugar no matter the source so limit use of sweeteners including honey, and agave syrup
  • Limit excess fructose consumption and avoid processed foods and beverages with added fructose (look for high-fructose corn syrup on label)

 

Choose to eat healthy fats

  • Emphasize foods that are rich in:
    • Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) – olive oil, olives, avocado, avocado oil, canola oil, sesame oil, nuts and seeds and nut butter
    • Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA) - Fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, albacore tuna, oysters), walnuts, ground flax seeds and flax oil, soybeans, and sunflower oil
      • For Omega 3 - Aim to eat fatty fish (4 oz serving) 2 x per week
    • Saturated fats from meat, dairy and butter should be consumed in moderation
    • Try our healthy high-fat/low carb diet guide

 

Limit alcohol

  • Cut down or stop drinking alcohol as it puts extra stress on liver
  • Guidelines:
    • Men should aim to stay below 2 drinks daily (up to 14 drinks/week)
    • Women should aim to stay below 1 ½ drinks daily (up to 10 drinks/week).

*Standard drink unit (SDU) is equal to 12oz (341ml) beer, 5oz (142ml) wine, 1.5 oz(43ml) spirits.

 

Boost antioxidants from foods

  • Free radical damage, or oxidative stress plays a role in liver cell damage
  • Eat foods rich in dietary antioxidants such as citrus fruits, berries, mango, leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potato, nuts and seeds, spices, tea and coffee

 

Increase exercise

  • Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity
  • 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times per week
  • Resistance/ strength training (with weights, resistance bands or your own body weight) two times per week

 

Improving diet quality may reduce the incidence and progression of NAFLD and associated risk factors. Many of the benefits are likely to result from the collective effect of dietary patterns. So aim to build in a healthy balanced lifestyle.

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References:

Elena S George, et al; Practical Dietary Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adults, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 9, Issue 1, 1 January 2018, Pages 30–40