Will eating certain vegetables prevent or improve fatty liver disease? Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease goes hand in hand/is a consequence of being overweight or obese, and is characterized by an accumulation of fat in the liver. As the disease progresses, the liver shows damage from inflammation, and can ultimately even lead to cirrhosis (liver failure).
A recent multi-part study raises the possibility that perhaps eating certain foods can prevent or reverse this condition. Gut bacteria produce many compounds , one of which is indole, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Obese people have less indole in their blood, and lean people more. And people with fatty liver disease have less indole in their blood. In the study, giving mice indole actually improved their fatty liver disease.
How can one naturally increase levels of indole? By eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, and Brussels sprouts.
From Medical Xpress: Natural compound in vegetables helps fight fatty liver disease
A new study led by Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists shows how a natural compound found in many well-known and widely consumed vegetables can also be used to fight fatty liver disease.
The study demonstrates how non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, can be controlled by indole, a natural compound found in gut bacteria—and in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It also addresses how this natural compound may lead to new treatments or preventive measures for NAFLD.
"Based on this research, we believe healthy foods with high capacity for indole production are essential for preventing NAFLD and are beneficial for improving the health of those with it," said Chaodong Wu, M.D., Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow and principal investigator for the study. "This is another example where altering the diet can help prevent or treat disease and improve the well-being of the individual."
NAFLD occurs when the liver becomes "marbled" with fat, sometimes due to unhealthy nutrition, such as excessive intake of saturated fats. If not properly addressed, this condition can lead to life-threatening liver disease, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Many diverse factors contribute to NAFLD. Fatty liver is seven to 10 times more common in people with obesity than in the general population. In addition, obesity causes inflammation in the body. Driving this inflammation are macrophages, types of white blood cells that normally battle infection. This inflammation exacerbates liver damage in those with liver disease.
Gut bacteria can also have an effect—either positive or negative—on the progression of fatty liver disease. These bacteria produce many different compounds, one of which is indole. This product of the amino acid tryptophan has been identified by clinical nutritionists and nutrition scientists as likely having preventive and therapeutic benefits to people with NAFLD.
The National Cancer Institute also notes the benefits of indole-3-carbinol found in cruciferous vegetables, including their anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.
For the study, researchers investigated the effects of indole on individuals with fatty livers. As research collaborator Qifu Li, M.D., was also a physician at Chongqing Medical University in China, the team decided he should lead the clinical research using Chinese participants.
In 137 subjects, the research team discovered people with a higher body mass index tended to have lower levels of indole in their blood. Additionally, the indole levels in those who were clinically obese were significantly lower than those who were considered lean. And in those with lower indole levels, there was also a higher amount of fat deposition in the liver.
To further determine the impact of indole, the research team used animal models fed a low-fat diet as a control and high-fat diet to simulate the effects of NAFLD. Alpini said treatment of NAFLD-mimicking animal models with indole significantly decreased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver.
The research team also studied how indole affected individual cells. Shannon Glaser, M.D., a professor of Texas A&M Health Science Center, said that in addition to reducing the amount of fat in liver cells, indole also acts on cells in the intestine, which send out molecular signals that dampen inflammation.