`Mediterranean Diet Linked to Improved Outcomes in Liver Disease Patients - Olive Oil Times

Mediterranean Diet Linked to Improved Outcomes in Liver Disease Patients

By Paolo DeAndreis
Nov. 14, 2023 18:03 UTC

Following the Mediterranean diet could pre­vent the onset of dis­eases such as the wide­spread non­al­co­holic fatty liver dis­ease (NAFLD) while also mit­i­gat­ing symp­toms for NAFLD patients, new research has found.

NAFLD includes a series of patho­logic man­i­fes­ta­tions linked to the build-up of fat in the liver, known as steato­sis.

Adopting the Mediterranean diet, even if for just one year, can improve non-alco­holic fatty liver con­di­tion and gut micro­biota.- Isabel Moreno-Indias, researcher, Biomedical Research Institute of Málaga

Its pro­gres­sion over time may cause liver dam­age, includ­ing cir­rho­sis and fibro­sis. It can also increase the risk of con­tract­ing or wors­en­ing chronic ill­nesses such as kid­ney dis­ease, dia­betes and high blood pres­sure.

According to some research, 32 per­cent of all adults world­wide suf­fer from NAFLD, which is often asso­ci­ated with being over­weight or obese. In the United States alone, research from the American Liver Foundation, a non-profit, esti­mates that up to 100 mil­lion Americans suf­fer from NAFLD.

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Today, there is no med­ica­tion that can cure NAFLD. All an indi­vid­ual can do is to change lifestyle to reduce the chances of a pro­gres­sion of such a con­di­tion,” Isabel Moreno-Indias, co-author of the study and researcher at the Biomedical Research Institute of Málaga, in Spain, told Olive Oil Times.

Weight loss, exer­cise and adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet are cru­cial,” she added.

Published by Gut Microbes, the study focused on 297 meta­bolic syn­drome patients older than 60 and obese whose health con­di­tions were mon­i­tored at base­line.

After one year of adopt­ing and adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet, researchers re-eval­u­ated the patients’ con­di­tions and divided them into three groups.

Our research team wanted to focus on the Mediterranean diet inter­ven­tion,” Moreno-Indias said. Each group was there­fore formed depend­ing on the changes that occurred to the patients dur­ing that year.”

Scientists adopted two indices com­monly used in research to esti­mate the Mediterranean diet’s impact: the Hepatic Steatosis Index (HSI) and the Fibrosis−4 score (FIB−4). Both were used to assess the chang­ing degree of each patient’s liver con­di­tion.

The study’s authors found that the more strictly the Mediterranean Diet was fol­lowed by patients, the more its ben­e­fi­cial impacts were, includ­ing sub­stan­tial improve­ments in the gut micro­biota.

The gut micro­biota is the com­plex pop­u­la­tion of bil­lions of microor­gan­isms in the human gas­troin­testi­nal tract. The bac­te­ria are cru­cial in main­tain­ing a healthy immune sys­tem and meta­bolic func­tions.

The com­po­si­tion of the gut micro­biota varies from indi­vid­ual to indi­vid­ual, and it is highly depen­dent on diet. Altered com­po­si­tions of the gut bac­te­r­ial pop­u­la­tion have been repeat­edly asso­ci­ated with a vast array of infec­tions and inflam­ma­tory dis­eases.

In the study, the changes mon­i­tored by the researchers included a reduc­tion of inflam­ma­tion-asso­ci­ated bac­te­ria, while those respon­si­ble for healthy fatty acids pro­duc­tion increased. The results imply improved gut health and a decline in the risk of devel­op­ing sev­eral chronic ill­nesses.

We found a rela­tion between bio­chem­i­cal changes related to NAFLD and gut micro­biota,” Moreno-Indias said.

Researchers found that patients who ben­e­fited more by adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet, who saw their NAFLD mark­ers improve sig­nif­i­cantly, also showed the high­est pres­ence of ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria.


These results tell us that lifestyle inter­ven­tions such as adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet might mod­u­late the gut micro­biota and there­fore impact meta­bolic syn­drome and liver health,” Moreno-Indias said.

Gut micro­biota could also become cru­cial for NAFLD diag­no­sis. Francisco Tinahones, a pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at the University of Málaga and co-author of the study, said NAFLD is an asymp­to­matic dis­ease in its early stages, and the lack of non-inva­sive mark­ers means that when it is diag­nosed, it is in an advanced sit­u­a­tion, so new bio­mark­ers are nec­es­sary for its early detec­tion, and the intesti­nal micro­biota could help.”

While the research shows the sig­nif­i­cant role of the Mediterranean diet in cul­ti­vat­ing a healthy gut micro­biome, the researchers warned that more remains to be assessed.

We need to con­sider that our pop­u­la­tion sam­ple was very par­tic­u­lar and spe­cific, as they were indi­vid­u­als who are not young and who suf­fer from spe­cific con­di­tions such as obe­sity and meta­bolic syn­drome,” Moreno-Indias said. Twenty per­cent of them suf­fer from dia­betes.”

What we found is that in this spe­cific sam­ple of the pop­u­la­tion, adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet, even if for just one year, can improve NAFLD con­di­tion and gut micro­biota,” she added.

Having said that, my opin­ion is that the results we ver­i­fied on that spe­cific pop­u­la­tion sam­ple tell us even more,” Moreno-Indias con­tin­ued. They tell us that for all seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion who do not have NAFLD, adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet might exert a cru­cial effect in pre­vent­ing its onset.”

However, the researcher pointed out that adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet means more than fol­low­ing a spe­cific eat­ing pat­tern.

The Mediterranean diet is more than a diet. It is a lifestyle, includ­ing social eat­ing and exer­cise,” she said. In this con­text, extra vir­gin olive oil is the key, as olive oil is the main fat and lipid source of the Mediterranean diet, with all its ben­e­fi­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics.”

Without olive oil, there would not be a Mediterranean diet in the first place,” Moreno-Indias added. In our pro­to­col, the Mediterranean diet is char­ac­ter­ized by the pres­ence of olive oil.”

Previous research hinted at the impact of the antiox­i­dants of extra vir­gin olive oil on NAFLD. It is believed they can play a cru­cial role in the well-being of NAFLD patients.


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