Fatty Liver Diet: Managing and Reversing Effectively
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Fatty liver disease is a condition in which excess fat is stored in the liver.
Making dietary changes is the most commonly prescribed course of action for helping manage and reverse fatty liver disease.
Taking a liver-supportive supplement, like fatty15, can help support your liver health and protect it from further damage.
Fatty liver disease, or steatosis, is a condition wherein excess fat is stored in the liver. It’s most common in people who are overweight or obese, but it can affect anyone. There are two types: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
A person with NAFLD has excess fat stored in the liver, but they drink little to no alcohol. The rates of NAFLD are rising at alarming rates. In the US, currently 1 out of very 3 people, including 1 in 10 children, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
NAFLD causes inflammation in the liver, which can lead to scarring. Some people with NAFLD may develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This can lead to severe scarring and liver enlargement, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.
Risk Factors for NAFLD
You are at higher risk of developing NAFLD if:
- You have a family history of liver disease or NAFLD
- You are overweight or obese
- You have high cholesterol or high blood triglyceride levels
- You have type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance
- You have PCOS
- You have metabolic syndrome
Unlike NAFLD, AFLD affects people who drink alcohol in excess.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease affects the liver similarly to NAFLD, but the underlying cause of this disease is the excess consumption of alcohol. Just like NAFLD, AFLD causes the liver to store excess fat. The excess fat stored in the liver can lead to liver enlargement, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
The Good News
The liver is complex and able to repair itself, at least in some cases. If you have cirrhosis, there’s no way to reverse the scarring in your liver. However, making certain lifestyle changes can help you avoid additional scarring and increase your ability to live a healthy, longer life with your condition. If you have AFLD, avoiding alcohol can improve your liver health.
One way to support your liver health is by making dietary changes. A healthy diet can help you manage your weight, and the foods you choose can help support your liver health.
Fatty Liver Diet 101
While there’s no way to reverse permanent liver damage (from scarring), the most frequently prescribed treatment for fatty liver disease is to make dietary changes. Most doctors and nutritionists recommend a diet with plenty of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbs, plenty of vegetables, lean protein, and even an extra cup of coffee.
Some types of carbohydrates are unhealthy. Added sugar, for instance, can cause you to pack in added calories with no nutritional value, leading to weight gain and even obesity.
However, complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and legumes contain fiber, protein, and vitamin C. These ingredients help keep you full, regulate digestion, won’t spike your blood sugar levels, and contain antioxidants.
Some carbohydrates have antioxidant activities. Antioxidants are important for people with fatty liver disease. Inflammation in the liver can lead to a higher circulating level of reactive oxygen species (ROS), molecules that can damage cells and even alter DNA. Antioxidants protect healthy cells against ROS.
Many micronutrients your body needs can be found in vegetables and plants. Vegetables are a good source of nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and ingredients that help support liver function and help you maintain a healthy body weight.
In addition to supporting liver health, increasing your vegetable intake is linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, helps lower high blood pressure, and protects your digestive tract with beneficial fiber.
Part of a healthy liver diet is choosing protein options that don’t pack in a lot of animal fat or added fat. Fried foods (like fried chicken) can contain an unhealthy amount of fat.
Instead, opt for lean grilled, baked, or broiled options. Chicken, fish, and pork are all lean sources of protein. Protein is essential for healthy liver function, and it's important to make sure you get enough.
Coffee: The Wildcard of Liver Health
If you’re surprised to see coffee on the list of healthy liver foods, don’t be. Coffee contains four ingredients that can support your liver health.
- Caffeine. Digestion of caffeine releases a chemical called paraxanthine, which studies have linked to reduced scar tissue in patients with liver fibrosis.
- Tocopherols. This is a form of vitamin E, which interacts with a particular protein that is responsible for the uptake of fatty acids in the liver.
- Polyphenols. These are flavonoids, which research has linked to anti-NAFLD effects, like improvement with inflammatory markers, protection from oxidative stress, and balanced gut flora.
- Chlorogenic acid. This is an antioxidant that can help protect against oxidative stress.
About three cups of coffee daily is likely all you need to get those liver-beneficial effects. You can also get some of the same benefits from other caffeinated, plant-based drinks like green tea.
Just be sure you’re ordering yours black or with just a splash of creamer. Coffee drinks can pack in hidden calories in sugary flavored syrups and heavy dairy creamers and milk.
It may seem counterintuitive to intentionally add fat to your fatty liver diet, but adopting a completely low-fat diet isn’t a good solution for your liver health or your overall health and wellness.
If you’re confused, that’s not surprising. The information regarding dietary fat has been confusing, to say the least.
Dietary guidelines issued in the 1970s told us to avoid all fat to reduce heart disease. The problem is, it didn’t work. A full generation later, heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans and diseases like diabetes and fatty liver disease are on the rise. So what happened? The answer lies in different types of fats.
The Truth About Fat
We’ve been told that all fats are bad, but science supports that’s not the case. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids are fatty acids and one type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is essential. Our bodies need this molecule to thrive but can’t readily make it independently — we have to get ALA from food or from supplements.
Unfortunately, omega-3s including ALA have some side effects that make them a little less of the heros they’ve been celebrated to be. At high doses (the doses that are usually associated with clinical benefits), omega-3 can cause:
- Thinning of the blood
- Excess bleeding if an injury were to occur
- Low blood pressure
Most omega-3 fish oil supplements leave you with a terrible aftertaste, even if you buy the “burpless” formula. Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat found in seeds, nuts, and olive oil. It’s usually better to get your omega-3 from these sources than a supplement.
What About Other Fats?
Even though we’ve been told that all saturated fat is bad for us, research says that isn’t true. A new important class of fatty acids were discovered to be essential in 2020. These group of fatty acids are called odd-chain saturated fatty acids and one in particular, C15:0, was discovered to be an essential fatty acid. C15:0 is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in over 90 years. (since omega 3s and ALA)
Higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids and especially C15:0 have been shown to improve our liver health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.
What Is C15:0?
C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated, essential fatty acid. C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole fat dairy products (like whole milk and full-fat butter).
However, because of the dietary guidelines, created in the 1970s, that told us to avoid foods containing saturated fats, most Americans have opted for lower-fat versions of dairy products, like skim milk or light butter. The push towards plant-based milk has also increased our deficiencies, as plant-based milk doesn’t contain any C15:0.
This is a big deal, especially if you have fatty liver disease.
C15:0 has been shown to protect the liver against damage. In addition to improving liver health, a study published in the Public Library of Science in 2020, showed that C15:0 had over 36 clinical benefits in the human cell systems studied. These benefits included calming immune responses and decreasing tissue fibrosis relevant to liver health.
In multiple studies published in Nature’s Scientific Reports in 2020 and 2022, C15:0 was shown to have many benefits to our overall health. Many of these benefits were tied to C15:0s ability to improve our cellular health, including:
Keeping cell membranes strong. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into our cell membranes and fortifies them. Studies have shown that pure C15:0 improves cellular strength by 80%.
Activating PPAR-ɑ/δ. By activating these receptors, C15:0 helps restore whole-body homeostasis to functions like metabolism, immunity, and liver immune responses. It can even help regulate appetite and deepen sleep.
Rescuing aging mitochondria. C15:0 repairs mitochondrial function, increasing our cell’s energy output and decreasing damaging reactive oxygen species by 45%.In one study, it was shown to increase ATP levels in cells by 350%.
Cellular health is foundational to our overall health and wellness, and increasing your circulating levels of C15:0 is a step towards supporting your liver, protecting your longevity, and enjoying a healthier life.
That just leaves one problem: how to get more of it in your diet.
Fatty15: The C15:0 Solution
There are a few reasons why taking a supplement to obtain this essential fatty acid may be beneficial.
In milk and butter, C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides, aka triglycerides. That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid.
Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, the pure powder in fatty15 is already in free fatty acid form. Less work for the gut, more good C15:0 for our bodies.
It's Not Mixed With Bad Saturated Fats
While the good C15:0 fatty acid is present in whole-fat dairy products in trace levels, these foods contain much higher levels of “bad” even-chain saturated fatty acids that continue to be associated with poorer health.
That is probably why studies evaluating the effects of milk on our health are mixed (some say dairy fat is bad for us, while others say it is good for us). Fatty15 provides just the good fat without the bad fats.
Fatty15 allows you to skip the cows and calories in a little one-calorie capsule that is already bioavailable and readily absorbable.
The Best Fat for Fatty Liver
If you’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, it’s important to take better care of your liver. That starts with making some dietary adjustments and maintaining a healthy weight.
While you’re on a mission to improve your liver health, consider taking the scientifically-backed supplement that supports your liver. Fatty15 is the pure, bioavailable, vegan-friendly, and award winning supplement that helps improve your cellular health and your overall health and wellness.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
You May Also Like...
How To Stay Motivated To Eat Healthy: Complete Guide
If your January goal of eating healthy has started to take a backseat to life, that’s completely normal. Even the most determined and self-driven among us struggle to stay on track.
Summer barbecues, work events, birthdays, and holidays...
Alcohol’s Impact on the Liver: What You Should Know
More than 29 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder, which can lead to serious, negative health impacts. For others, the occasional use of alcohol is widely accepted for celebrations, social events, or even to...