Non-alcoholic liver disease has been linked to insulin resistance, obesity and type-2 diabetes. It is thought to be caused by the build-up of free fatty acids in the portal vein and, ultimately, the liver because of diet, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
However doctors are finding that raised GGT levels in the blood (the main test for liver function) are appearing in people who eat large amounts of carbohydrates. Starchy foods such as bread and potatoes convert in to glucose (simple sugar). As with all nutrients in the body the liver sends them to wherever they need to be used but if there is an excess of a nutrient, the liver will act as a storage facility. When the liver runs out of storage room the excess is converted to fat and stored as (mainly) visceral fat (the fat which surrounds the organs and gives you a ‘muffin top’)
An estimated 20% of the British population have non-alcoholic liver disease which is around twice as many as have type-2 diabetes. According to a study published in Diabesity in Practice cutting down on carbohydrates and eliminating added sugar completely caused an average decrease in GGT levels of 47%. Dr Unwin (who conducted the study) also encouraged the patients to increase their intake of healthy fats in olive oil and butter.
The study also found that other health benefits were experienced by the participants. Apart from the GGT levels dropping within a few weeks of starting the diet, blood sugar levels dropped by an average 10 points, weightloss was around 11 lbs and cholesterol levels dropped by 0.5.
High GGT levels are linked to liver damage and possibly cirrhosis, heart failure, diabetes and pancreatitis so finding a way to reduce the levels could be life changing. The NHS advice is that a low fat diet and exercise is the best way to prevent non-alcoholic liver disease.
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