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Vitamin D And Carotenoids May Protect Against Fatty Liver Disease, Study Shows

Posted on July 9, 2024 by Elizabeth Swanson

Vitamin D and carotenoids are nutrients that play many roles in supporting our overall health, from maintaining bone density and eyesight to reducing inflammation. According to a recent study, they may also protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“For this study, we compared blood levels of micronutrients in adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a condition that’s been renamed to metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) – to adults without MASLD,” says Menghua Tao, Ph.D., an assistant scientist at Henry Ford Health. “Our findings showed that adults with higher serum levels of vitamin D and carotenoids had a reduced risk of MASLD. 

“The underlying reason why these nutrients protect against fatty liver disease is a bit complicated, but these micronutrients can act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals and lowering oxidative stress. Vitamin D interacts with magnesium to protect against insulin resistance, an important contributor to fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is also associated with chronic inflammation and carotenoids lower inflammation.”   

Treating Fatty Liver Disease Through A Healthy Diet

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (or MASLD) is exactly what it sounds like – it occurs when fat builds up in the liver, eventually causing liver damage. The liver can regenerate itself up to a certain point, and in early stages of the disease, you may have no symptoms. But when fatty liver disease gets too advanced, the liver becomes scarred (a condition called cirrhosis) and can no longer regenerate. Cirrhosis is the most frequent reason for a liver transplant. Advanced stages of fatty liver disease can also turn into liver cancer.

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“Historically, there haven’t been any medications for MASLD. But this year, there’s a new drug to treat severe cases,” says Dr. Tao. “For less advanced cases, the best way to reverse fatty liver disease is through physical activity, a healthy diet and weight loss. With further studies, we might be able to recommend vitamin D and carotenoids as treatment methods.”

While vitamin D and carotenoid levels rise soon after starting a daily supplement, Dr. Tao says long-term studies are needed to see how quickly these nutrients could show an improvement in the disease. And this doesn’t mean supplements are a substitute for a healthy diet. Vitamin D isn’t as readily available in food (the sun is a great source, but too much sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer), which is why supplementation is often recommended. But carotenoids are prevalent in fruits and vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, kale – and the list goes on. 

“The most important thing is to not just eat one or two nutrients but to establish healthy eating patterns, which will ensure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals,” says Dr. Tao. “Hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to recommend a specific diet to help people with fatty liver disease. Most people are still in the reversible stage of fatty liver disease so if they lose weight and change their diet, they could go back to having normal liver function.”

Reviewed by Menghua Tao, Ph.D., an assistant scientist in the Public Health Sciences department at Henry Ford Health.

Categories : FeelWell

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