Although myths have been propagated attempting to denounce the link between low-carb, high-protein diets and liver health, the fact is a low-carb diet can actually be beneficial to your liver. Even in the presence of certain diseases, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a low-carb diet can help reduce symptoms and ease stress on your liver. What follows are the essential facts about a low-carb diet and liver disease.
The American Heart Association has recommended against low-carb, high-protein diets for a number of reasons. One of their foremost concerns is that these types of diets cause damage to the organs of the body, most notably the liver and kidneys. However, upon examining the actual medical research, this threat is unfounded.
A 2004 article by Anssi Manninen, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutritionist, attempts to find the so-called link between high-protein, low-carb diets and the adverse effects so often mentioned. Regarding the link between low-carb diets and liver disease, he concludes, "There is no scientific evidence whatsoever supporting this contention." Going further, he also notes that in some diseases of the liver, such as alcoholic liver disease, a high-protein diet actually improves symptoms while curbing rates of mortality.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
The most common form of liver disease in the Western world is not alcoholic liver disease, but actually nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Traditionally, patients with this condition were prescribed a higher-carb, low-fat diet. Unfortunately, however, a study at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine uncovered the fact that this type of diet multiplies the risk of liver inflammation by seven times.
Low-Carb Recommendation for NAFLD
Low-carb dieting is beneficial for individuals who have this type of liver disease. A 2008 study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center determined that a low-carb diet can benefit individuals diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This is primarily due to the metabolic shifts that come from partaking of a low-carb diet, which allow the liver to better dispose of hepatic fat.
Thus, contrary to traditional medical opinion, low-carb diets are not as troublesome as previously thought for patients suffering from liver disease. If you are afflicted with liver disease, consult your doctor before changing your diet. If you are on a low-carb diet, remember to still follow an otherwise balanced nutritional plan, consisting of lean protein sources, healthy fats (a mix of animal fats, natural fats and oils found in such foods as olives, fish and flax) and as many fruits and veggies as your carb ceiling will allow.