The incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is escalating as fast as obesity. The two seem to parallel each other, and indeed, obesity is a risk for fatty liver disease. But researchers are looking at other contributing factors to this disease which can lead to permanent scarring or cirrhosis of the liver.

Meatless meals may protect the liver

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The incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is escalating as fast as obesity. The two seem to parallel each other, and indeed, obesity is a risk for fatty liver disease. But researchers are looking at other contributing factors to this disease which can lead to permanent scarring or cirrhosis of the liver. And that is definitely not good, because cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer and malfunction of this very important organ.

The primary risks for non-alcoholic fatty liver include:

  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides.      

There are symptoms for non-alcoholic fatty liver. Some of them include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite and nausea.
  • Swelling in abdomen.

A recent study of 3,440 folks, average age 71 years, found that there was a higher risk for liver disease with a higher intake of animal protein. There has been a weak link in previous studies between a high intake of high fructose corn syrup and fatty liver disease, but this study found an association with a higher intake of animal protein: fish, poultry, and red meat. It makes the case for more meals that are plant based, or at least that have a smaller amount of animal protein served.

Ways to reduce animal protein at meals:

  • When making a meat-based casserole, stew or soup cut by half the meat added to the recipe. Fill in with the other components like the vegetables, rice or pasta.
  • A bowl of hot or cold cereal with fruit is meatless and low in protein.
  • A peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch is meatless.
  • Assorted garden vegetables on the grill can make up a delicious meatless menu for dinner if you bypass putting meat on the grill.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.