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High-protein diets may reduce liver fat

By Ryan Maass
High-protein diets may reduce liver fat
Study participants all benefited from a high-protein diet, regardless of whether it came from a plant or animal source. Photo by Karen Grigoryan/Shutterstock

BERLIN, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Adhering to a high-protein diet can significantly reduce liver fat within just 6 weeks, scientists at the German Institute of Human Nutrition suggest.

In a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, a research team observed liver fat levels drop by up to 48 percent after diet changes were introduced. It did not matter if the participants consumed animal or plant-based protein. The study's authors say their findings may help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other related health conditions.

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"When left untreated, fatty liver is an important step progress to type 2 diabetes and can develop into liver cirrhosis, which can have life-threatening effects," study author Andreas Pfeiffer explained in a press release. "Since the number of affected persons is increasing, it is therefore more important than ever to work together with our partners to develop effective dietary strategies that prevent the disease."

The research builds on prior metabolism-related scholarship that examined the effects of high-protein diets. Investigators studied 37 male and female subjects between the ages of 49 and 78 years old. The team adjusted energy content of the meals to ensure their weight remained stable.

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Participants were given randomized diet routines. Plant-based diets included noodles or bread with enriched with pea protein, while animal-based diets consisted of lean milk, white meat, and fish. Researchers say they observed no meaningful differences between the two groups.

In both diets, the energy supply breakdown was 30 percent from protein, 30 percent from fats, and 40 percent from carbohydrates.

"As our results show, all study participants benefited from the high-protein diet, whether based on plant or animal protein," first author Mariya Markova said. "Negative effects on renal function or glucose metabolism were not observed. Liver fat content decreased significantly, in half of the study participants by more than 50 percent."

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The research team's next step will be to investigate hormonal regulation mechanisms in addition to environmental factors.

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