Strategies to Fight Fatty Liver Disease

March is liver disease awareness month and I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the leading cause of liver disease in Canada. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common type of liver disease in Canada with the common cause being obesity.
According to the experts, 75% of people who are defined as obese (BMI >30) will develop fatty liver disease in their lifetime. What is even more concerning is that fatty liver disease is a rapidly growing reason for liver transplantation and is predicted to be the number one cause for transplantation by 2020. Yikes! These facts are very sobering and may scare a lot of people but what I hope to do here is to convince you that if you have fatty liver disease, you have the ability to change your destiny and prevent any further damage to your liver by making some powerful yet simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
A few key nutritional strategies can help in the fight against fatty liver disease.
Consume grains in appropriate portions to your body. It seems like everywhere we turn grains and/or carbs are getting a bad rap.  While anything in excess has repeatedly been proven to have a negative effect on our health, carbs are not evil if consumed in appropriate portions.
Increase your servings of vegetables. Not only are they full of nutrients and disease-fighting properties, the fibre in vegetables will leave you feeling satisfied by reducing the production of a hormone in our gut called Grehlin, the “hunger hormone”.
Avoid drinking pop and limit your consumption of juice to no more than 1/2 cup each day, as they tend to be full of sugar or fructose. Fructose is the number one sweetener of choice for a great deal of processed foods because it is cheap. While I do not believe fructose is “bad”, we were never meant to consume it in the volume we currently do.  Research studies show that fructose is more rapidly converted to fat in the liver compared to regular sugar-glucose.
Decrease consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat as both have been shown to increase fat accumulation in the liver if consumed in excess. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the amount recommended for people with fatty liver disease. What I would recommend is limiting the intake of saturated fat (animal fat) and increase the consumption of fish, and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avacado, canola oil, nuts and seeds).
Exercise is imperative for the treatment of non alcoholic fatty liver disease but not just for weight loss. In fact, a trial in obese patients with fatty liver disease found that 4 weeks of cycling resulted in an improvement liver fat accumulation even though weight did not significantly change (source). Exercise change our distribution of fat and muscle.