PLEASE NOTE: The information in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.
Fatty liver disease is a complex topic. One thing that seems clear is the connection between metabolic dysfunction and a diet that is out of balance with your body’s energy and nutrition needs.
Fatty liver disease is a serious condition that puts you at a higher risk for cirrhosis, liver cancer, and loss of liver function. This condition is on the rise and is closely associated with the diet and lifestyle of developed Western societies (1).
In this article, you’ll learn the basics of fatty liver disease, how animal-based nutrition can be a tool against NAFLD, and other methods to improve your overall health.
Before we dive in, it’s always a good idea to seek a professional medical opinion if you haven’t already.
If needed, check out the Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners, where you can find physicians from all around the globe who understand the immense value of making animal foods the center of the diet. Another popular option is IFM Find a Practitioner for a functional medicine approach.
Fatty Liver Disease: What You Need to Know
Our understanding of fatty liver disease breaks it into two main categories: alcohol-associated liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Both scenarios appear connected to a diet rich in quick energy, such as processed carbohydrates, and low in essential nutrients.
Although modern medicine does not comprehensively understand NAFLD, some foundational health principles can help you improve your condition.
The first and most significant remedy for those suffering from alcohol-associated fatty liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol and seek professional help (2). Although this article focuses mostly on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, many of our suggestions can be relevant if you’re recovering from alcohol-associated fatty liver disease.
For non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the root cause isn’t an excess of alcohol. Still, the resulting condition of the liver is similar — even though there may not be any visible symptoms. NAFLD also requires dietary and lifestyle changes to promote healing. A clear connection exists between metabolic dysfunctions such as insulin resistance and obesity (3).
In some cases, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to an aggressive form of liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is marked by inflammation, liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring and loss of function), and a higher risk of developing liver cancer.
If you’re dealing with fatty liver disease, one of our primary suggestions is to treat the underlying metabolic dysfunction. Again, this may require the guidance of a medical professional, but metabolic health is greatly impacted by diet and lifestyle choices.
Reversing Fatty Liver Disease with Diet
We’re strong advocates for animal-based nutrition. For people managing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, eating an animal-based diet provides nutrients that support your liver and can help resolve the underlying metabolic dysfunction that may be contributing to fatty liver.
If you’re unfamiliar with animal-based nutrition, it’s a diet that focuses on eating meat and organs from well-raised ruminant animals, such as cattle, bison, sheep, goats, and venison. Including organ meats is critical because of the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients in organ tissue. This approach is often referred to as eating “nose-to-tail.”
On an animal-based diet, your carbohydrates come from honey, maple syrup, and low-toxicity fruits and vegetables.
How an Animal-Based Diet Supports Your Liver
In one study, citrulline and other nonessential amino acids — found robustly in beef liver and muscle meat — were found to prevent fructose-induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (4).
Researchers have also demonstrated that choline plays a critical role in liver health. Choline deficiency significantly contributes to more visceral fat accumulation in the body (5,6). Other nutrients are crucial in liver health, including vitamins A, D, B3, B12, and E (7); many of which are found in muscle and organ meats.
If you’re unable to find fresh organs or don’t enjoy the taste, our organ supplements are a great alternative. They contain freeze-dried organ meats from grass-fed, grass-finished cattle raised on regenerative farms. Although we call them supplements, they don’t contain any synthetic compounds like most over-the-counter supplements. They’re nutrition-dense food in capsule form.
Another critical component of the animal-based diet is eliminating potentially problematic foods, such as processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and potentially certain vegetables. In particular, we emphasize minimizing excessive intake of linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid is a pro-inflammatory omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found abundantly in industrial seed oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, canola, peanut, grapeseed, etc.) as well as in the fat of monogastric animals (pork, chicken, turkey, or duck) that eat a diet high in these same seeds.
This fatty acid is essential at low levels because your body needs a small amount and can’t make it internally. However, the standard Western diet contains extremely high linoleic acid levels (8), which can promote visceral fat accumulation and lead to metabolic dysfunction. Humans appear to have evolved with a 1 to 1 ratio of these fats (9). By comparison, the modern Western diet can contain 15-20 times more omega-6 than omega-3.
Studies have shown explicitly that diets high in linoleic acid develop the highest degree of fatty liver, while diets rich in tallow (very low in linoleic acid) offered complete protection (10).
Furthermore, when researchers investigate diets low in omega-6 fats and linoleic acid, they find that they can completely eliminate fatty liver disease (11).
Fruit and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Is It Safe?
The current conversation on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease has singled out fructose (fruit sugar) as a key contributor to fatty liver development. But are the claims against fruit (or really, fructose) true?
While there are studies showing fructose can negatively impact humans by increasing visceral adiposity (fat surrounding organs) and decreasing insulin sensitivity (12), the context of these studies matters. Most of them focused on fructose in isolation or consumed in excess rather than using fructose in a “whole food matrix,” as you would find in nature.
In studies that used whole food matrix forms of fructose, such as honey and fruit, the results indicate that these forms of fructose can be beneficial, not harmful.
For example, in one study of subjects with metabolic dysfunction (metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, and diabetes), honey significantly improved blood lipids (namely increased HDL levels and lower triglycerides), homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and plasma glucose levels (13).
Additional studies have shown that eating blueberries and drinking orange juice can improve markers associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress (14,15). If whole food matrix fructose were harmful to the metabolism, these studies would likely show a worsening of inflammation markers instead of improvement.
Although it’s possible to over consume fruit, mainly if you’re juicing heavily, the likelihood is far lower if you’re eating whole fruits as part of an animal-based diet where your calories and satiety needs are met with meat and organs.
What’s the Verdict?
As mentioned above, fatty liver is a complicated topic that’s not fully understood. What’s clear is that it’s connected to metabolic dysfunction.
Like any challenge as serious as fatty liver, we suggest working alongside a medical professional before making significant changes. But, it appears that foods like well-raised meat, organs, and even fruit can support your liver health. These foods may not be the enemies that they’re painted as!
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