Sugar intake is not directly related to liver disease

November 1, 2013

Despite current beliefs, sugar intake is not directly associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Rather, high-calorie diets promote the progression of this serious form of liver disease.

Researchers conducted a double-blind study of healthy, but centrally overweight men to compare the effects of high intakes of two types of sugar, glucose and fructose, in two conditions—weight-maintaining (moderate-calorie diet) and weight-gaining (high-calorie diet). In the weight-maintaining period, men on neither diet developed any significant changes to the liver. However, in the weight-gaining period, both diets produced equivalent features of , including steatosis (fatty liver) and elevated serum transaminase and triglycerides. These findings indicate that fructose and glucose have comparable effects on one's liver, and is the factor responsible for the progression of liver disease.

"Based on the results of our study, recommending a low-fructose or low-glycemic diet to prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is unjustified," said Professor Ian A. Macdonald, study author and faculty of medicine and health sciences, University of Nottingham, UK. "The best advice to give a patient is to maintain a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise. Our study serves as a warning that even short changes in lifestyle can have profound impacts on your liver."

During the period of increased calorie intake, all study participants experienced significant increases in body weight, waist circumference and total body fat, as expected. Interestingly, satiety was unaltered in spite of weight gain during the high-calorie diet; this reinforces the notion of "hidden calories" in drinks since participants consumed a portion of their calories in liquid form.

Fructose is a simple sugar commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Glucose, also known as grape or blood sugar, is present in all major carbohydrates, such as starch and table sugar.

Nonalcoholic , the most prevalent liver problem in the U.S. and most Western countries, is the buildup of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. For more on how a low-calorie is the best prescription for this form of , read the article "NAFLD Treatment: Is there More to Talk About Other than Diet and Exercise?" from the October/November issue of AGA Perspectives, the AGA Institute's most prominent non-scientific publication.

Related Stories

Weight loss surgery alters fatty liver disease genes

August 6, 2013

Research has shown that weight loss surgery can benefit obese individuals in ways that go beyond shedding pounds, for example by causing early remission of type 2 diabetes. Now scientists have found that the surgery can also ...

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.