March 23, 2018
4 min read

8 recent reports on diet’s protective, risk-increasing effects on liver health

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Diet and lifestyle play a large role in liver health. Lately, researchers have made several important discoveries regarding the ties between diet and the gut microbiome, and identified specific dietary components that either have protective qualities for liver health or increase the risk for liver disease and cancer.

The following reports include details on diet’s effect on the gut microbiome, the increased risk for fatty liver disease among individuals with a high intake of red and processed meat, the protective effects of early childhood vitamin E intake and moderate coffee intake for adults, and a recent CDC report on adult binge drinking.

High red, processed meat intake increases fatty liver disease, insulin resistance risk

High consumption of red meat and processed meat correlated with an increased risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance, according to recently published data.

“World meat consumption has increased in the last decades, while evidence of its harmful effect is mounting, particularly of red and processed meat consumption,” Shira Zelber-Sagi, PhD, from the Tel Aviv Medical Center, and colleagues wrote. According to the researchers, their results indicate a potential protective role of a vegetarian or low animal protein diet, including the Mediterranean diet, which has previously shown benefit in the gut microbiome. Read more

CDC: Adult binge drinkers collectively consume 17.5 billion drinks a year

U.S. adults consumed approximately 470 binge drinks per drinker in 2015 for a total of 17.5 billion binge drinks, according to findings recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Binge drinking occurs when a man has five or more drinks per 2-hour occasion, and when a woman has four or more drinks per 2-hour occasion, according to the researchers. Read more

Diet, lifestyle outweigh genetic impact on gut microbiome

Genetics play a surprisingly minor role in shaping the gut microbiome, while environmental factors like diet and lifestyle appear to have the greatest impact, according to new research published in Nature.

These findings provide strong new evidence supporting the concept of modifying the gut microbiota to improve human health, investigators from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel concluded. Read more

Early childhood vitamin E intake linked to lower risk for elevated ALT

Higher early childhood intake of vitamin E correlated with a lower risk for elevated mid-childhood alanine aminotransferase levels, according to recently published data.

“We are still learning more about the long-term risks of high ALT in childhood. Cross-sectional studies of children show a link between ALT and metabolic risk, and adults longitudinal studies show that higher ALT levels are associated with later risk of diabetes and mortality,” Jennifer A. Woo Baidal, MD, MPH, from the Columbia University Medical Center, New York, told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “Diet quality – not just calories – matter, and most Americans don’t get enough alpha-tocopherol in their diet. Promoting a diet rich in antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol should start early in life and may help promote later liver health.” Read more


Ultra-processed foods linked to increased cancer risk

Individuals who ate more “ultra-processed” foods showed a higher risk for cancer in a large prospective study of adults in France.

The results, published today in the BMJ, showed that a 10% higher proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet correlated with more than 10% higher risks for overall cancer and breast cancer. Read more

Middle Eastern diet increases gut microbiota diversity, shows benefit in cirrhosis

Diets with a high intake of vegetables, cereals, coffee, tea and fermented milk products like yogurt correlated with a higher diversity in the gut microbiome. In turn, a higher microbial diversity correlated with a lower risk for hospitalization among patients with cirrhosis, according to recently published data.

“We wanted to know why cirrhosis is so much more commonly a cause of death in some countries and why the disparities between populations exist,” Jasmohan S. Bajaj, MD, from the Virginia Commonwealth University, told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “Specifically in the United States, cirrhosis as a cause of death is quite high, whereas it is not as high in some Middle Eastern countries like Turkey. We hypothesized that this could be because of the gut microbes and diet, which are clearly different in patients from these countries.” Read more

Herbal, dietary supplement-induced liver injury more common in young women

Analysis of the Spanish Drug-Induced Liver Injury registry showed that cases of herbal and dietary supplement-induced liver injury were more common in young women than older patients or men and correlated with hepatocellular injury and high levels of transaminases.

“Definition and classification of herbal and dietary supplements vary between different countries. Similarly, the regulation of herbal and dietary supplement products in terms of safety and efficacy is also heterogeneous,” Maribel Lucena, MD, from the University of Málaga, Spain, told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “We have analysed a series of herbal and dietary supplement-induced hepatotoxicity (HILI) cases enrolled in the Spanish DILI Registry between 1994 and 2016, and compare them with DILI cases related to conventional medication and anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), in order to define the clinical phenotype and outcome of HILI in Spain.” Read more

Moderate coffee intake reduces risk for liver cancer, cirrhosis, fibrosis

In a roundtable format, experts gathered to discuss the latest research on coffee and liver disease, which indicate that drinking approximately three to five cups per day is associated with a reduced risk for hepatocellular carcinoma, cirrhosis and fibrosis.

“I’ve been in the field for 30-odd years and it’s not a topic that’s come up until very recently. I would imagine patients will always ask, ‘What can I do, to help myself?’ And the advice is always lose weight, don’t drink too much alcohol and don’t smoke at all — a lot of advice that is somewhat negative,” Graeme Alexander, MD, senior advisor to the British Liver Trust, told HCV Next. “But to be told something positive, rather than negative, is a good message. If people ask, ‘Should I drink coffee?’ the answer would be yes.” Read more