Fatty liver is on the upsurge among
overweight Americans, especially children, putting them at risk for clinical liver
disease. Now, an animal study
demonstrates that diets rich in refined, rapidly digested carbohydrates can cause fatty liver, sparking a new clinical trial to see if dietary changes can reverse it.
Researchers led by David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of Children's Hospital Boston's Optimal Weight for Life Program, fed mice either a high- or a low-glycemic index diet. High-glycemic index foods, including white bread, white rice, most prepared breakfast cereals and concentrated sugar, raise blood sugar quickly. Low-glycemic foods, like most vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains, raise blood sugar slowly.
After six months, the two groups of mice weighed the same. However, as reported in the September issue of Obesity, mice fed the high-glycemic diet had twice the normal amount of fat in their bodies, blood and livers.
Dr. Ludwig notes that rapid sugar release from high-glycemic index food drives up insulin production, leading to fat
depositionĺ─ţespecially in the liver, where insulin concentrations are particularly high due to its proximity to the pancreas.
The fat buildup increases the risk of
inflammation, which can progress to
hepatitis and, in some cases, liver failure.
Pediatric fatty liver disease was once
a rarity, but now affects an estimated
one-fourth to one-half of overweight American children. ĺ─˙Just as type 2
diabetes exploded into our consciousness in the 1990s, so we think fatty liver will in the coming decade," Dr. Ludwig predicts.
The clinical trial will randomize
overweight children 8 to 17 with an
abnormal liver to either the low-glycemic
or a low-fat diet.
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