Keto diet could damage liver health, say experts

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | ThitareeSarmkasat
Getty | ThitareeSarmkasat
People following a keto diet are putting themselves at higher risk of the ‘silent killer’ non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to nutrition experts.

Approximately a quarter of the global population is predicted to be living with NAFLD – a disease which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer – with the prevalence increasing alongside the increase in obesity.

As there is no effective drug therapy for the disease, diet and lifestyle modifications are the main prevention and treatment options.

Registered nutritionist, Dr Laura Wyness, points out that this means consuming a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains, with small amounts of meat – the opposite of the increasingly popular keto diet in which meat is a large component and fat is the main source of energy.  

“A healthy balanced diet such as a traditional Mediterranean diet has been shown to be particularly beneficial in patients with NAFLD,"​ she notes.

"A diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, moderate amounts of dairy and fish, small amounts of meat, and predominantly unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats can help reduce fatty liver.  Other beneficial lifestyle habits include regular activity, cutting down or not drinking alcohol and not smoking.” 

Hugo Rosen, a liver disease specialist and chair of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, points out that eating lots of fats and restricting carbohydrates can lead to NAFLD, according to research done in mouse models.

"But you're basically consuming 80 percent of your caloric intake from fat. It certainly makes sense why in rodents, we're seeing that this causes NAFLD."

He also recommends tha Mediterranean diet, as well as the paleo diet.

"Some data has shown that a paleo diet has a significant and persistent effect on lowering liver fat compared to a low-fat diet, simply because a low-fat diet isn't palatable to a lot of people,"​ he said.



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