SEATTLE, July 7 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers linked diets high in protein and cholesterol with a higher risk of liver disease.
The study, published in the journal Hepatology, also found a high carbohydrate diet associated with a lower risk of cirrhosis -- a disease where liver tissue is replaced by fibrous scar tissue.
Study leader George Ioannou of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle used data from 9,221 participants in the National Health Examination Survey. The study participants did not suffer from cirrhosis or liver cancer at the start of the study and completed a 24-hour dietary recall questionnaire.
During the follow-up period -- an average of 13.3 years -- 118 participants received a new diagnosis of cirrhosis and five people a diagnosis of liver cancer. These individuals were more likely to be male, diabetic, non-white, older, more obese with more central fat distribution and had higher alcohol consumption.
Subgroup analyses, the researchers said, showed the significant associations of protein and cholesterol intake with cirrhosis or liver cancer described in the entire study population were limited to overweight or obese persons.
"No such associations were observed in normal-weight persons," the study authors said in a statement. "Our study raises the possibility that dietary factors may be important, modifiable, and hitherto unrecognized determinants of liver disease progression."