Working with specialists from four major Melbourne hospitals, the team reviewed more than a decade of published research to come up with five dietary recommendations for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
An estimated 30 per cent of people in developed countries, including Australia, have NAFLD and rates are as high as 90 per cent in obese people and 50 per cent among those with diabetes.
Lead researcher Elena George, an honorary research fellow at La Trobe University and a lecturer at Deakin University, said the only proven treatment for NAFLD was weight loss.
“There is currently no effective drug treatment for NAFLD. Diet is the only proven way to prevent or improve the condition, but until now there have been no practical recommendations available to guide clinicians and patients.”
The five recommendation, published in Advances in Nutrition, are:
- Follow a traditional diet, such as the Mediterranean diet
- Avoid excessive fructose (from processed food and drinks)
- Eat fish 2-3 three times a week, eat nuts and seeds daily and choose extra virgin olive oil as the main added fat
- Eat plant based foods that are high in fibre including fruit vegetables and wholegrains
- Eat less processed food
The researchers found these diet tips were likely to reduce the onset and progression of NAFLD and have a positive effect on other associated chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Elena George is currently involved in a clinical trial, led by Dr Audrey Tierney, investigating the impact of a Mediterranean diet on NAFLD patients. Preliminary data presented within her PhD from the Mediterranean Dietary Intervention for Adults with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (MEDINA) study found NAFLD patients who followed a Mediterranean diet saw a reduction in liver fat in just 12 weeks without significant weight loss.
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