A team of researchers led by Kristina Varady at the University of Chicago has shown that alternate-day fasting, combined with exercise, may help patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Photo courtesy of University of Chicago
Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Alternate-day fasting combined with exercise may help improve the health of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, was published recently in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which the liver stores too much fat in its cells, is the most common liver illness globally.
An estimated 30% of the United States population is affected with the disease to some degree. Symptoms can include enlarged spleen, jaundiced skin and abdominal swelling. Approximately 65% of obese patients have the condition.
Lead researcher Kristina Varady led clinical trials where subjects engaged in different diet and exercise practices to gauge their impact on the disease.
"Participants in the clinical trial were randomized to one of four groups: an alternate-day fasting group, an aerobic exercise group, a combined group and a control group in which participants made no changes to their behaviors," researchers said in a press release.
"Participants in the diet groups tracked their food intake and participants in the exercise groups used an elliptical machine in Varady's lab for one hour, five days a week," the release continues.
"When we compared the results of our study groups, we saw clearly that the most improved patients were in the group that followed the alternate-day fasting diet and exercised five days a week," Varady said.
"The people who only dieted or only exercised did not see the same improvements, which reinforces the importance of these two relatively inexpensive lifestyle modifications on overall health and on combating chronic diseases like fatty liver disease," she said.
While the study shows promising results, Varady believes the routine could be challenging for patients.
"Alternate-day fasting and exercise interventions can be difficult for peel to stick to and in prior studies we have seen significant dropout. It was very interesting to see that in this trial we had a very high adherence to the interventions," Varady said.