Dietary Treatment of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming more common in Australia, particularly among individuals who are obese or have type 2 diabetes. NAFLD is a serious condition that can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and liver cirrhosis.

Currently, there are no medications specifically designed to treat this disease. The main approach to managing NAFLD involves making lifestyle improvements and losing weight. However, researchers from the University of Sydney have found that certain foods can play a significant role in improving or preventing the development of NAFLD and NASH. 

  • Avocados: Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. They possess lipid-lowering, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and weight maintenance properties. The researchers recommend consuming half an avocado daily.

  • Olive oil: When used as part of a low-fat Mediterranean diet, olive oil is beneficial for individuals with NAFLD. It helps lower lipid levels, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease liver fat. It is recommended to consume around 20g of olive oil per day.

  • Oily fish/fish oil: Studies have shown that consuming oily fish or fish oil can reduce liver fat and levels of aspartate aminotransferase (a liver function test that indicates liver damage). There is moderate evidence supporting its effectiveness for NAFLD and strong evidence for metabolic disease. The researchers recommend consuming two servings of oily fish per week.

  • Nuts: Nuts have shown potential as a treatment for NAFLD due to their ability to improve blood fats (such as cholesterol), reduce liver fat, and alleviate inflammation. The researchers recommend consuming a handful of nuts per day.

  • Coffee: Coffee has multiple benefits for liver health. It improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers recommend drinking three cups of coffee per day.

  • Green and black tea: Both green and black tea may have a positive impact on the development and progression of NAFLD by lowering blood fats and improving insulin sensitivity. However, the evidence is not as strong as for other foods, and one would need to drink five to ten cups of tea per day to obtain a noticeable benefit.

Incorporating these foods into your diet can have a positive impact on NAFLD and overall liver health. However, it's important to remember that these recommendations should be followed in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Written and reviewed by Dr Ahmad Zeeshan.