Will a Vegan Diet Help Fatty Liver Disease?

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When most people think of a healthy diet, a vegan diet is usually near the top of the list.

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll have some vegans who claim it can cure anything from cancer to heart disease.

And while I’m a huge supporter of being vegan, it’s important to understand it’s not a magical diet that will make all your issues disappear.

So let’s go over a few relevant studies to fatty liver treatment, and see if and why a vegan diet may or may not help you.

Vegan Diets and Fatty Liver Research

Other than not drinking alcohol, the most important part of a fatty liver disease treatment plan is weight loss.

You must lose the excess fat being stored in your liver, there’s just no way around it.

Not surprisingly, studies have found exactly this:

  • One study found that reducing caloric intake by 30%, or about 750-1,000 calories per day resulted in a significant improvement. (1)
  • Another study found that weight loss through diet and exercise improved or even resolved the disease in those with NAFLD or NASH. (2)

So in theory, if a vegan diet promotes weight loss, it could be a useful treatment tool.

Here’s the main takeaway from a study that looked at the effect of vegetarian diets on nonalcoholic fatty liver (3):

Vegetarian diets, replacing meat and fish with soy, and replacing refined carbohydrates with whole grains, may be inversely associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver related to BMI.

In other words, there’s some scientific evidence behind the idea of eating a plant-based diet as a treatment.

Considering they replaced fish with soy, that’s closer to a standard vegan diet than a standard vegetarian diet. If you’re new to the terms, a vegan diet is technically one particular type of vegetarian diet.

That result isn’t too surprising to me. I’ve previously written about whether vegans are fatter or thinner than meat eaters. Multiple studies show that vegans are generally thinner.

SUMMARY

Weight loss is the key component of a fatty liver treatment. If a vegan diet helps you do that, which it may, then it can be an effective option.

Will A Vegan Diet Work For You Against Fatty Liver?

All that above stuff sounds great, but studies deal in the general case.

Just switching to a vegan diet won’t work for everyone. There are plenty of fat vegans after all.

So will it work for YOU specifically is the question that matters right now.

Well, let’s take a look at what type of diet the subjects followed in that study above:

  • A vegetarian diet rich in whole plant foods
  • Replaced refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, white rice, white bread) with whole grains
  • Reduced calorie intake
  • No, or limited alcohol

The last one’s probably the most important here.

But here’s the thing…Quite a bit of alcohol is still vegan. Refined carbohydrates are still vegan. There’s also plenty of vegan junk food.

Not just any vegan diet will give you a good chance at improving fatty liver disease.

It needs to be an actually healthy one that focuses on calorie reduction. This is typically done by not eating much, if any, junk food, and reducing or eliminating refined carbohydrates that are easy to overeat.

Secondly, you need to be able to stick to it. If you have fatty liver disease, a diet change isn’t just for a little while until symptoms improve, it’s a long-term lifestyle change.

That’s why you need to work with your doctor or dietician to find a sustainable vegan diet if you do choose to take that route. The evidence suggests that it’s a good path to take, but you need to make sure that it will work for you.

And if you don’t think you can make it work, your doctor can give you alternatives.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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