In a nine-day experiment, researchers from Touro University and UC San Francisco discovered that a diet with reduced sugar cut liver fat by more than 20 percent. Cutting out the sort of sugar commonly found in soft drinks, fruit juices and processed foods reversed the buildup of liver fat in children and adolescents, a condition closely tied to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Fatty liver disease in youth has more than doubled in the past 20 years, causing increased insulin resistance. That, in turn, reduces a person’s ability to control blood sugar, which causes Type 2 diabetes. The findings were released in the journal Gastroenterology.
Said lead author Jean-Marc Schwarz: “Our study clearly reveals that sugar is turned into fat, which might explain the epidemic of fatty liver in children consuming soda and food with added sugar. And we find that fatty liver is reversed by removing added fructose from our diet.”
People with Type 2 diabetes are often encouraged to keep a low-fat diet. A study at Linkoping University showed that food with a lot of fat and few carbohydrates might have a better impact on blood sugar levels and blood lipids.
Added co-lead author Susan Noworolski: “Such a significant liver fat reduction in just 9 days of fructose reduction is extraordinary. The results offer exciting hope a way to fight the metabolic issues associated with fatty liver disease.”
Scientists at the University of Colorado School of Medication reported that the cause of obesity and insulin resistance may be connected to the fructose your body makes in addition to the fructose you eat. The enhancement in fatty liver was not due to weight loss, however to cutting out the sugar. Participants lost less than 1 percent body weight on the nine-day diet, generally due to water loss.
Robert Lustig said: “Many people believe that fructose provides empty calories. But no, they are toxic calories because they are metabolized only in the liver, and the liver turns the excess into fat.”
In the experiment, calories from fructose were replaced by glucose-rich, starchy foods. Total calorie consumption was equal to participants’ pre-study levels. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and is important to metabolism and energy production at the cellular level. Glucose is found in grains and certain vegetables, and is metabolized in the liver where a lot of it gets turned into fat.
Latinos and African-American teens consume about 50 percent more sugar than Caucasians and Asians. In this study researchers hired obese however non-diabetic Latino and African-American children and teens, ages 9 to 18 with at least one physiological marker for insulin resistance and high sugar intake.
An MRI was performed at the start and end of the study to measure liver fat. For nine days, participants ate prepared meals containing no additional sugar, so sugar represented just 10 percent of overall calories, down from around 28 percent pre-study. As a result, the average reduction in liver fat was more than 20 percent, while insulin sensitivity and other metabolic measures also improved significantly.
Kathleen Mulligan said: “Such increases in insulin sensitivity potentially reduce the risk of diabetes and other disorders connected with the metabolic syndrome.”
The results are in line with a new model projecting that a 20 percent drop in fructose consumption would cut the prevalence of a range of metabolic diseases by about 5 percent and save $10 billion a year in medical expenses. Lowering sugar intake by half would cut disease save $32 billion annually.
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