Heavier Red Meat Consumption Tied to Higher Fatty Liver Risk
A February 15, 2019 article on Medscape.com from Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) reported how people who eat a significant amount of animal protein may be more likely to have excessive fat in their livers The Dutch study reported on shows these individuals have a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) than individuals whose main source of protein is vegetables.
Researchers examined data for 3,882 study participants. Overweight people who ate the most animal protein were 54% more likely to have fatty liver than individuals who consumed less meat, the analysis found. "This was independent of common risk factors for NAFLD (such as socio-demographic factors, lifestyle, and metabolic factors),” said senior study author Dr. Sarwa Darwish Murad, a hepatologist at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
"Perhaps most importantly, the association was independent of total caloric intake," Murad said. "We also showed that a diverse diet is important.” Indeed, study participants without fatty liver consumed an average of 2,052 calories a day, compared with 1,996 calories per day on average for people with fatty liver. People with fatty liver also got more of their total calories from protein, compared with people without the liver condition. Vegetable consumption was similar for both groups; meats accounted for the difference in protein consumption.
Dr. Shira Zelber-Sagi, a researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel said the findings add to the evidence suggesting that healthy eating habits can minimize the risk of fatty liver disease, even when people have a genetic risk for this condition.
The current study results add to the evidence suggesting that people should limit red and processed meat. Experts recommend trying to eat more fish and following a Mediterranean diet, rich in whole grains, fish, lean protein, veggies and olive oil.
What This Means for Our Health
Fatty liver disease refers to the abnormal accumulation of fatty acids inside the liver cells, and occurs when the body reaches the point of being unable to metabolize the excess amount of fats. It impairs the normal liver cell functions and the energy production process. Fatty liver disease is closely linked to insulin resistance that can lead to the development of diabetes type 2, and cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension. The presence of a healthy intestinal environment, a healthy and balanced microbiota, is one of the essential regulators of the liver fat deposition.
A diet rich in animal proteins induces a shift in the microbiota towards the prevalence of bacterial populations able to ferment these proteins, a process called putrefaction. Increased putrefaction can then create increased intestinal production of potentially harmful metabolites that can alter the intestinal ecosystem towards a propensity to cellular transformation and cancer development.
The main take-home from this evidence is to limit the consumption of red meat to grass-fed lean meats (at most once a week). Meats from grass-fed animals contain high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, β-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to those form conventionally raised animals. And, hopefully, happier animals! Processed meat should be avoided or consumed only rarely. Vegetables should represent the main source of proteins. The fiber from them will keep the microbiota happy and healthy.
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Reuters Health Information © 2019
Heavier Red Meat Consumption Tied to Higher NAFLD Risk - Medscape -Feb 12, 2019.