November 07, 2011
1 min read

Mediterranean diet improves liver health independent of weight loss

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Marno Ryan 

SAN FRANCISCO —A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids improved liver health in subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a study presented here.

Investigators at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Australia, compared the Mediterranean diet with the National Heart Foundation diet. They concluded that the Mediterranean diet reduces liver steatosis and improves insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease compared with standard low-fat dietary advice.

“Subjects had a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity, indicating a reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Marno Ryan, MBBS, MD, said at The Liver Meeting. “This was demonstrated without weight loss, suggesting that a change in macronutrient intake alone, even without weight loss, can improve metabolic health.”

Insulin sensitivity improved with the Mediterranean diet (P=.05), whereas there was no significant change after the low-fat diet. Hepatic steatosis declined significantly after the Mediterranean diet compared with the low-fat diet. Hepatic fat fraction measured by MRI decreased significantly on the Mediterranean diet compared with the low-fat diet (P=.008).

“We can now offer patients evidence-based dietary advice that will reduce their risk of diabetes and liver disease even without weight loss,” Ryan said. “And all our patients enjoyed our [Mediterranean] diet a lot more than the low-fat diet.”

Ryan said that cost is a factor with the Mediterranean diet, noting that the study subjects received a subsidy to cover the higher costs of olive oil and fish, which are central to the diet.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.