Fatty liver disease: Are you at risk? Carbohydrates could be a trigger – ‘Vicious cycle’

Fatty liver is a common condition in the Western world due to our rich diet and high levels of obesity, together with a lack of physical activity,” said Dr Clare Morrison from MedExpress. “Most people who have fatty liver have no idea they have it, as it doesn’t tend to cause symptoms, particularly in the early stages.” 

Fatty liver disease describes a range of conditions that have one thing in common – the build-up of fat in your liver.

One food component that can lead to this excess fat being stored in the organ is refined carbohydrates.

Dr Morrison said: “Fatty liver develops when excess fat is stored in the liver. 

“This is generally due to eating too much, particularly refined carbohydrates (starchy or sugary foods). 

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“These foods cause a rise in blood sugar, which triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that encourages the body to store fat. 

“This is a vicious cycle as fat in the liver impairs its ability to respond to insulin, leading to insulin resistance, and hence more insulin being produced.”

According to Holland&Barrett, refined carbohydrates include the likes of:

  • Sugar-sweetened foods such as cakes, biscuits, sweets and pastries
  • Fizzy drinks and some fruit juices and smoothies
  • White pasta and white bread
  • White rice
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals, cereal bars and energy bars.


How to treat fatty liver disease

Based on the doctor’s advice, it won’t come as a surprise that you need to limit refined carbohydrates.

She added: “The most important treatment for fatty liver is to lose weight by eating a healthy diet with limited refined carbohydrates, but plenty of healthy fats such as olive oil and oily fish, salads, vegetables and whole grains, and taking regular exercise. 

“However, it’s important not to go on a crash diet as rapid weight loss may make the problem worse.

“Instead, cut back by around 500 calories a day, and aim for a steady weight loss of around 0.5 – 1kg a week.”


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