When it comes to shedding fat, you’ve got to cut calories and get regular exercise, right? Sure, there are variations in there, but that’s what it basically comes down to, doesn’t it?
But what about when you’re trying to lose fat in a specific place in the body — the liver? Do the same rules of less calories and more exercise apply?
Not exactly. Researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center recently wrapped up a study that will soon be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It’s a study that could change the way we think about treating diabetes, insulin resistance, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Obviously, diabetes and insulin resistance are a big deal, and so is NAFLD. It affects as many as 1/3 of adults in the United States, and can lead to such dangerous conditions as liver inflammation, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
What these researchers found is that people looking to reduce the amount of fat in their livers can make a major dent in as little as a month, according to the lead author of the study. All it takes is a commitment to cutting carbs. (Yes, I know, that can be tough! But the payoff is a big one.)
Participants in the study were assigned to either a low-carb or a low-calorie diet for two weeks. The low-carb dieters were allowed up to 20 grams of carbohydrates for the first seven days (about what is in a small banana), and were switched to frozen meals matching their specific needs for the second week. People on the low-calorie diet had the prepared meals for the entire two weeks (coming in at 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 calories for men).
When the two weeks were up, the researchers took a look at the participants’ livers using advanced imaging techniques and found that those on the low-carb diet lost more liver fat than those on the low-calorie diet. Overall weight loss was about the same for both groups. On average, people in both groups lost 10 pounds.
Why was the low-carb diet so effective in reducing liver fat? Well, the researchers don’t really know. They also stated that more research is needed before we can consider the relationship between a low-carb diet and liver fat beyond the two-week period of the study.
They do, however, think that the low-carb approach is really only good in the short term. Weight loss in general is the best way to reduce liver fat, and at some point the benefit of that general weight loss is going to surpass the benefit of a low-carb diet.
In the meantime, though, I think it’s certainly worth consideration as a way to jump-start shaping up that liver!
Ms. O’Brien has written for Nutrition & Healing, Healthier Talk and a variety of other natural and alternative health outlets. She believes in the power of natural medicine and her goal is to open people’s eyes to the benefits of alternative and integrative medicine.
Christine is passionate about helping people help themselves without having to turn to harsh drugs or invasive surgeries.
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