How diet affects common fatty liver disease

Credit: Unsplash+

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where excess fat accumulates in the liver, and it is commonly associated with poor dietary habits.

This review aims to explain how diet can influence the presence and severity of NAFLD. We will explore the findings of several studies to understand the impact of nutrition on this liver disease.

What is NAFLD?

NAFLD is a condition that affects the liver, where fat builds up and can lead to inflammation and liver damage.

It is similar to the fatty liver disease seen in people who consume excessive alcohol, but NAFLD occurs in individuals who do not drink alcohol excessively.

Finding the Right Studies

To learn about the relationship between diet and NAFLD, researchers searched for studies published between January 1985 and May 2021.

They specifically looked for studies that used reliable tools to assess diet and body measurements, conducted by qualified dietitians or trained health professionals.

What Did the Studies Show? The researchers identified 60 studies involving 100,621 patients that met their criteria. They assessed the quality of these studies to determine their reliability.

Caloric Intake and NAFLD

One important finding was that people with NAFLD tend to consume more calories than healthy individuals.

In fact, the studies showed that the total caloric intake was higher in patients with NAFLD compared to those without the condition.

Macronutrients and NAFLD

The studies also looked at the types of nutrients people consumed. Interestingly, the proportions of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) in the diet did not appear to make a significant difference in the presence or severity of NAFLD.

In simpler terms, it doesn’t seem to matter whether a person gets more calories from protein, fat, or carbohydrates when it comes to NAFLD.

Fiber and Vitamins

While macronutrients didn’t have a major impact on NAFLD, the studies did not find significant differences in the intake of fiber, caffeine, and vitamins E, A, and C between people with NAFLD and healthy individuals.

These nutrients play important roles in overall health, but they may not have a direct effect on the development or severity of NAFLD.

Soft Drinks and NAFLD

There was a trend observed between the consumption of soft drinks and the presence of NAFLD. Soft drinks, which often contain high amounts of added sugars, are not healthy choices.

However, the evidence linking soft drink consumption to NAFLD was not strong enough to draw definitive conclusions.


The studies also compared patients with NAFLD to those with a more severe form of the disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Surprisingly, there were no significant differences in diet between these two groups. However, it’s important to note that the number of patients included in these comparisons was relatively small.


In summary, the studies reviewed in this analysis suggest that consuming excessive calories is associated with an increased risk of NAFLD.

However, the specific composition of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) does not appear to have a significant impact on the development or severity of the disease.

Although the consumption of soft drinks showed a potential association with NAFLD, more research is needed to establish a strong link.

It’s important for individuals to adopt a balanced and healthy diet to prevent the development and progression of NAFLD, focusing on maintaining an appropriate caloric intake and making nutritious food choices.

The study was published in Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol.

Copyright © 2023 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.