Plant-Based Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Fatty Liver Disease in Adults

Greg Howard
23rd May, 2024

Plant-Based Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Fatty Liver Disease in Adults

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences found no significant link between plant-based diets and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Even after adjusting for factors like age, energy intake, physical activity, and body mass index, the overall plant-based diet index (PDI) did not show a significant association with NAFLD
  • The study suggests that the relationship between plant-based diets and NAFLD is complex and requires further investigation to understand the nuances and potential impacts
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a growing health concern worldwide, closely linked to metabolic syndrome (MS), type 2 diabetes (T2D), and obesity[2][3][4]. NAFLD can lead to severe liver damage and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Given that lifestyle modifications such as diet and physical activity are known to improve insulin resistance (IR) and NAFLD, researchers are exploring various dietary patterns to identify effective preventive measures[2][5]. A recent study conducted by Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences aimed to investigate the association between plant-based diets and NAFLD[1]. The study involved 240 adults aged 20-69 years, divided into two groups: 120 individuals diagnosed with NAFLD and 120 healthy controls. The diagnosis of NAFLD was based on recommendations by the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Gastroenterological Association. Dietary intake was assessed using a comprehensive 178-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), and plant-based diet scores were evaluated based on 18 food groups, categorized into animal foods, healthy plant foods, and unhealthy plant foods. The researchers used multiple logistic regression models to examine the relationship between NAFLD and different tertiles of plant-based diet index (PDI). The results revealed no significant association between overall PDI and NAFLD, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, energy intake, physical activity, and body mass index. Specifically, the odds ratio (OR) for the highest tertile of PDI compared to the lowest was 0.76, with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 0.31-1.86 (P:0.52). Additionally, no significant associations were found when examining healthy PDI (hPDI) or unhealthy PDI (uhPDI) separately. The OR for the highest tertile of hPDI was 1.14 (95% CI: 0.50-2.60, P:0.74), and for uhPDI, it was 0.89 (95% CI: 0.36-2.18, P:0.79). These findings contrast with earlier studies that have highlighted the importance of dietary patterns in managing NAFLD. For example, a case-control study identified that a "western dietary pattern" was positively associated with NAFLD, while a "healthy dietary pattern" was linked to a decreased risk[5]. The lack of association in the current study suggests that the relationship between plant-based diets and NAFLD may be more complex than previously thought and warrants further investigation. One possible explanation for these results is that the study's population may have had varying levels of adherence to the plant-based diet, which could dilute any potential effects. Additionally, the classification of plant-based foods into healthy and unhealthy categories may not capture the full spectrum of dietary quality. Previous research has shown that the quality of plant-based foods significantly impacts health outcomes[5]. The study also aligns with findings that emphasize the multifactorial nature of NAFLD and its progression. For instance, NAFLD is closely linked to metabolic syndrome, T2D, and obesity, and these conditions are known to exacerbate each other[2][3]. Genetic factors, such as the PNPLA3-I148M variant, have also been shown to influence the development of NAFLD and its associated metabolic complications[3]. This complex interplay of genetic, dietary, and lifestyle factors highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to managing NAFLD. In conclusion, while the study by Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences did not find a significant association between plant-based diets and NAFLD, it underscores the importance of further research to explore this relationship. Understanding the nuances of dietary patterns and their impact on NAFLD could lead to more effective preventive strategies. Given the rising prevalence of NAFLD and its associated health risks, continued investigation into dietary interventions remains a critical area of focus[2][5].

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References

Main Study

1) The association between score of plant-based diet and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in adults.

Published 22nd May, 2024

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2024.04.013


Related Studies

2) Mechanisms of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in the Metabolic Syndrome. A Narrative Review.

https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox10020270


3) Causal relationships between NAFLD, T2D and obesity have implications for disease subphenotyping.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2020.03.006


4) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease progression rates to cirrhosis and progression of cirrhosis to decompensation and mortality: a real world analysis of Medicare data.

https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.15679


5) Dietary patterns and risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12876-021-01612-z



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