Low-carbohydrate diet burns more excess liver fat than low-calorie diet, UT Southwestern study finds
The low-carbohydrate dieters, however, got only 20 percent of their glucose from glycogen. Instead of dipping into their reserve of glycogen, these subjects burned liver fat for energy.
The findings are significant because the accumulation of excess fat in the liver – primarily a form of fat called triglycerides – can result in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. The condition is the most common form of liver disease in Western countries, and its incidence is growing. Dr. Browning has previously shown that NAFLD may affect as many as one-third of U.S. adults. The disease is associated with metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity, and it can lead to liver inflammation, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
"Energy production is expensive for the liver," Dr. Browning said. "It appears that for the people on a low-carbohydrate diet, in order to meet that expense, their livers have to burn excess fat."
Results indicate that patients on the low-carbohydrate diet increased fat burning throughout the entire body.
Dr. Browning and his colleagues will next study whether the changes that occur in liver metabolism as a result of carbohydrate restriction could help people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Previous research has shown a correlation between carbohydrate intake and NAFLD.