A study found the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) was more effective than a low-fat diet in reducing hepatic fat (HF), which refers to liver fat.
Since elevated HF is linked to serious diseases, the discovery has implications for wellness that extend far beyond liver health.
(The) Mediterranean/low-carbohydrate diet induced a greater decrease in hepatic fat content than low-fat diet, and the beneficial health effects were beyond the favorable effects of visceral fat loss.
The study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, examined whether losses in HF related to dietary interventions were linked to losses in visceral fat, known as abdominal or belly fat.
It involved 278 participants of an average age of 48 with visceral fat and elevated lipids in the blood. The individuals were randomly assigned either a MedDiet or a low-fat diet with and without exercise for 18 months. Visceral fat was measured using magnetic resonance imaging.
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After six and 18 months, both dietary groups had a reduction in HF, which was tied to a lowering of visceral fat that surpassed what would be expected due to weight loss. Moreover, the MedDiet was associated with a significantly greater decrease in HF and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
“High hepatic fat content is associated with metabolic syndrome, type two diabetes mellitus, and coronary heart disease,” the researchers wrote. “In this 18-month intervention trial, Mediterranean/low-carbohydrate diet induced a greater decrease in hepatic fat content than low-fat diet, and the beneficial health effects were beyond the favorable effects of visceral fat loss.”
Gynecologist and fertility physician Tina Koopersmith of West Coast Women’s Reproductive Center in Sherman Oaks, California, did not participate in the study, but told Olive Oil Times that the findings make sense to her since Mediterranean diet is not only low in fat, but also full of important nutrients.
“The MedDiet differs from the low-fat diet in various ways,” she said. “It’s much richer in healthy monounsaturated fats, which are present in extra virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts. In addition, it contains less sugar and refined grains than a standard low-fat diet.”
“HF is often seen with dysmetabolic syndrome, a condition of insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure and pre-diabetes,” she added. “Fat in this area is also an indicator or risk factor for cardio-metabolic disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.”
“Results from the study suggest a reversal or improvement in some of the underlying etiologies of today’s common diseases,” she continued. “For years, we have been told that we should avoid all fat in the diet because of the link between HF and certain disorders, as well as the association between atherosclerotic plaque and heart disease. However, people in France and in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea don’t avoid fat in the diet, yet they don’t have the incidence of chronic disease that we see in the United States.”
“In recent years, scientists looking more deeply into the MedDiet have found that its high content of healthy monounsaturated fats and avoidance of refined carbohydrates seem to be associated with better outcomes,” she concluded. “Research also shows that the MedDiet is linked to lower insulin resistance and less deposition of fat in the liver. These effects lead to a better functioning liver with less inflammation in the body, thus translating to better health.”