The wrong foods can cause a fatty liver but researchers say the right ones can reverse it.

Researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a compound in many popular vegetables that has the power to fight fatty liver disease.


Eating too much of the wrong things can lead to a fatty liver but something in the right things has been identified that could reverse the problem. Researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a compound in many popular vegetables that has the power to fight fatty liver disease.

Scientists from the AgriLife Research center at Texas A&M published a report in the journal Hepatology that detailed the effects of indole on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Indole is a natural compound found in gut bacteria that is also abundant in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

"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. "This is another example where altering the diet can help prevent or treat disease and improve the well-being of the individual."

NAFLD refers to the condition of the liver when it becomes embedded with fat deposits that resemble the marbling of a fatty steak. It is caused by unhealthy nutrition such as excessive intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates.

A fatty liver is much more common in the obese and if not addressed it can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Obesity is also linked to excess inflammation in the body which can lead to further liver damage.

Indole has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for inflammation and cancer in other studies and now its effects have been seen in relation to NAFLD. Researchers in this study saw positive results working with human subjects, animals and also in cell testing.

Texas A&M’s Shannon Glaser, M.D. said in addition to reducing the amount of fat found in the liver cells, indole also works in the gut by sending out signals that reduce inflammation. "The link between the gut and the liver adds another layer of complexity to studies on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and future studies are very much needed to fully understand the role of indole," she said.

Wu went on to say, "Foods with a high capacity of indole production or medicines that mimic its effects may be new therapies for treatment of NAFLD. Preventing NAFLD's development and progression may depend on nutritional approaches to ensure that gut microbes allow indole and other metabolites to function effectively. Future research is needed to investigate how certain diets may be able to achieve this."

Click here to read more in the journal Hepatology.

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