Eat your greens: Study suggests a plant-rich Mediterranean diet can reduce NAFLD risk

Posted on: 30th January 2021

Results from a new clinical trial suggest that a new diet may reduce the risk of developing non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD is one of the leading causes of liver disease in the UK, and it’s thought that one in five people are in the early stages of the condition. If left untreated, the condition can sometimes lead to non-alcohol related steatohepatitis (NASH) and cirrhosis.

The British Liver Trust advises that a Mediterranean diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, together with a lower intake of meat and dairy foods is the healthiest diet to reduce your risk of developing NAFLD and to reverse the effects. This new study suggests that a ‘green Mediterranean’ diet may provide additional benefit.

The results of the study, published in the journal Gut, describe how a group of 294 people with abdominal obesity were randomly assigned one of three diets to follow for 18 months: a healthy dietary regimen; a Mediterranean diet; or a ‘green’ Mediterranean diet. They were also given a physical exercise plan to follow.

The modified Mediterranean green diet was rich in vegetables, but also included daily intake of walnuts (28 grams), less processed and red meat, and was enriched with green components, high in polyphenols, including three to four cups of green tea/day and 100 grams of a Mankai green shake. Mankai, an aquatic green plant also known as duckweed, is high in bioavailable protein, iron, B12, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols.

In the study, the green Mediterranean diet resulted in the most dramatic reductions in fatty liver: NAFLD prevalence dropped from 62 per cent to 31.5 per cent. In the standard Mediterranean group it fell to to 47.9 per cent and in the healthy dietary regimen group to 54.8 per cent.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “Results from this study may indicate an improved diet protocol to reducing NAFLD, however more research is needed before doctors can safely recommend these changes as supplements. If you are thinking of changing your diet please discuss this with your doctor or dietitian.

“The research does support what we already know – that eating a healthy diet has a really positive impact on our liver health.”

You can find out more about non-alcohol related fatty liver disease here or download our factsheet on how to eat well for a healthy liver.