Obesity, fatty liver and liver inflammation can pave the way for diseases, such as diabetes, cellular degeneration and cirrhosis. However, we can do a lot for these conditions and, as always, even in these cases prevention begins at the table. Restricting some foods and preferring others helps reduce the risk of developing these conditions. In order to understand which foods to include and which ones to reduce in one's diet, various scientific studies have been launched, such as the two researches we are talking about today. The studies were published by the same American group from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research (Li et al, Gastroenterology, 2022 - Ma et al, Hepatology, 2020).
It all starts with an enzyme
Hepatocytes are characteristic liver cells responsible for carrying out essential liver functions, such as metabolism, detoxification, protein synthesis and immunity. An enzyme, called adenosine kinase or ADK, regulates the function of hepatocytes. Well, it has been hypothesized that it is an imbalance of this enzyme that increases the risk of liver disease and obesity.
What causes obesity, fatty liver and liver inflammation
In the first research we are talking about today, Texan scientists studied the role of the ADK enzyme in the condition of fatty liver and obesity on a population of mice. An intervention at the genetic level made it possible to study mice with normal ADK values, lower than normal levels and in excess. The mice were fed a high-fat diet. What emerged was that mice with lower ADK values also exhibited a reduction in inflammation and fat accumulation. Instead, mice with high ADK values showed an increase in liver inflammation, in body weight and in fat accumulation in the body and liver. In short, high ADK values also lead to an increased risk of obesity, fatty liver and liver inflammation, which in turn can cause, in the long term and if not properly treated, liver cirrhosis and liver degeneration. But what causes an increase in ADK? Scientists indicate that an unbalanced diet particularly rich in saturated fatty acids stimulates the increase of the enzyme adenosine kinase or ADK. Saturated fats are found in butter, margarine, lard, palm oil and all those products that contain them, but also in fatty meats, sausages and cheeses.
Foods that contain the accumulation of fat in the body and liver
Instead, there are foods that can protect against the risk of obesity, fatty liver and liver inflammation. As the second scientific research indicates, there is a substance, called indole, which effectively counteracts fatty liver and the accumulation of body fat. Indole is a compound naturally present in some vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Indole acts on the intestinal microbiota, supporting the good bacteria and enabling them to produce those substances, which in turn will reduce the levels of inflammation and fat accumulation.
A diet that limits the intake of butter and vegetable alternatives such as margarine or palm fat, meat and cheese and instead prefers extra virgin olive oil, fruit and vegetables, including crucifers, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is protective for the liver and capable of counteracting obesity and inflamed liver.