NYS Certified Nutritionist

Dietary Risk Factors for Fatty Liver

Last year, the journal, Diabetes Care, reported a link between diets containing too much saturated fat, and/or sugar being a risk factor for a condition known as fatty liver.

In recent years, more of my client population has been diagnosed with this condition than in years past, and this reflects the incidence in the general population…as overweight and obesity become more prevalant.  This is a concern because a fatty liver may trigger insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II Diabetes.  I have observed that people who gain weight in their mid-sections, and are described as having an apple, rather than a pear, shape, are at greater risk for these conditions.

In the journal article, researchers reported on a small study in which subjects were assigned to consume an extra 1,000 calories a day of saturated fat [from butter, cheese, and coconut oil], or unsaturated fat [from olive oil, pesto, and pecans], or refined sugar [from candy, a sweet drink, and orange juice].

After three weeks, liver fat increased by 55% in the saturated fat group, 15% in the unsaturated fat group, and 33% in the sugar group.  Insulin resistance increased the most in the saturated fat group- their insulin was less effective in transporting blood sugar [glucose, our bodies’ fuel] into cells.  In addition, their LDL [bad] cholesterol levels increased, raising their risk of heart disease.

Reminder- saturated fats are solid at room temperature.  Mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, and are the safer option.  Fats in animal products are often rich in saturated fats.  Coconuts, and their products, are a trendy source of saturated fats, and merit caution when including them in one’s diet.  It goes without saying that sugar should be used judiciously.

Dateline:  Latham, Albany County, New York