According to a new study from Brunel University London, a fatty liver can also have a serious effect on your blood sugar level.
Researchers underwent MRI scans from 32,859 people who took a closer look at the size of their liver, as well as the pancreas. The investigators relied on a type of method used to measure gene function to investigate cause and effect, known as Mendelian randomization.
Not only did the researchers learn that individuals genetically predisposed to store fat in the liver were more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but every 5% increase in liver fat was shown to increase this risk by 27%.
"Our results encourage better treatment of those living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and provide evidence for the many benefits of weight loss and better screening for diabetes risk in these people," said lead author Dr. Hanieh Yaghootkar in a press release.
The Cleveland Clinic defines NAFLD as a condition that occurs in one in three adults who do not drink much. While the cause of this type of liver disease is unknown, obesity and diabetes are considered likely risk factors.
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"I'm not surprised by these results, as NAFLD has been shown to be a key factor in insulin resistance," said Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, a New Jersey-based nutrition consultant and author of 2 day diabetes diet. "It makes sense that even small amounts of fat accumulation on the liver will again increase insulin resistance and thus the risk of type 2 diabetes."
Furthermore, she believes that this current study offers enormous value, as it points to the importance of focusing on the prevention of excess adipose tissue in the liver - which is centered around your diet. "Some research suggests that coffee may be protective against liver damage from fat buildup. So if it is tolerated, it can be beneficial to drink up to two cups a day," says Palinski-Wade.
However, she quickly adds that stirring sugar and cream "can speed up the increase in fat in the liver. Instead, enjoy coffee black or sweet with flavors such as cinnamon or vanilla extract."
In addition to reducing total sugar intake, Palinski-Wade also advises limiting alcohol consumption. "Following a Mediterranean style of eating rich in plant-based fats, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fatty fish may be the best strategy to reduce fat in the liver," she says.
Plus, consider placing more high-fiber foods - like broccoli, berries, apples, and lots of green vegetables and legumes - on your plate. "Fiber can help reduce fat deposits in the liver, while helping to promote stable blood sugar levels and fight insulin resistance," says Palinski-Wade.
"A study showed that spinach in particular can lower the risk of NAFLD, while the resistant starch found in legumes can also help reduce NAFLD," Palinski-Wade concludes.
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