Can a low-carb diet affect liver health?

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is commonly treated through lifestyle modifications, with weight loss being a key therapeutic approach.

In recent years, low carbohydrate diets have gained attention for their potential benefits in reducing body weight and hepatic fat content.

This meta-analysis aims to review clinical studies and compare the effects of low-carbohydrate diets to low-calorie diets on hepatic fat change, as well as the levels of AST and ALT, in individuals with NAFLD.

The goal is to investigate the efficacy of low-carbohydrate diets as a treatment option for NAFLD.

The team collected and analyzed studies that examined the impact of different dietary compositions and methods for reducing hepatic fat and fibrosis.

The selected studies included randomized controlled trials and clinical studies.

Eleven clinical studies, including seven randomized controlled trials, met the criteria for evaluating the efficacy and safety of low carbohydrate diets for NAFLD patients.

Four studies utilized magnetic resonance imaging to assess hepatic fat, while two studies used computed tomography.

However, the sample sizes were small, the definition of a low carbohydrate diet varied among the studies, and there is no standardized method for evaluating liver health in NAFLD.

Based on the current evidence, there is limited support for the notion that low carbohydrate diets have a more beneficial effect on NAFLD compared to low calorie diets, assuming similar calorie intake.

The meta-analysis did not find a big difference between low carbohydrate diet groups and low-fat diet groups in terms of improvements in hepatic fat content and transaminase levels in NAFLD.

Implications and Future Directions

While the findings of this meta-analysis suggest that low carbohydrate diets may not provide additional benefits over low-calorie diets in the treatment of NAFLD, further research is warranted.

Larger studies with standardized definitions of low carbohydrate diets and uniform methods for evaluating hepatic fat and fibrosis are needed to establish more conclusive evidence.

Additionally, long-term studies assessing the sustainability and safety of low carbohydrate diets in NAFLD patients would be valuable for guiding clinical practice.

The study was published in Clinical Nutrition.

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