Plant-Based Diet May Not Significantly Impact Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Risk in Adults

by Ella

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has emerged as a global health concern, often intertwined with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. NAFLD not only poses risks of severe liver damage but also elevates the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle interventions, particularly dietary modifications, hold promise in ameliorating insulin resistance and NAFLD. In this context, a recent study conducted jointly by Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences aimed to investigate the potential association between plant-based diets and NAFLD.

The study, comprising 240 adults aged 20-69 years, categorized participants into two groups: 120 diagnosed with NAFLD and 120 healthy controls. Diagnosis of NAFLD adhered to guidelines set forth by the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Gastroenterological Association. Dietary habits were assessed via a detailed 178-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), with plant-based diet scores calculated based on 18 food groups, delineated into healthy and unhealthy plant foods, along with animal foods. Multiple logistic regression models were employed to analyze the relationship between NAFLD and various tertiles of the plant-based diet index (PDI).


Contrary to expectations, the study unearthed no substantial association between overall PDI and NAFLD, even after adjusting for potential confounders like age, energy intake, physical activity, and body mass index. Neither did separate analyses of healthy PDI (hPDI) nor unhealthy PDI (uhPDI) reveal significant associations. These findings diverge from prior research, which underscored the role of dietary patterns in NAFLD management.


One plausible explanation for these results could be the varying adherence levels to the plant-based diet among the study participants, potentially diluting any discernible effects. Moreover, the classification of plant-based foods into distinct healthy and unhealthy categories may overlook nuances in dietary quality, which prior research suggests significantly impacts health outcomes.


This study underscores the multifaceted nature of NAFLD and its progression, intimately intertwined with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, among other factors. Genetic predispositions, such as the PNPLA3-I148M variant, further underscore the complexity of NAFLD etiology, highlighting the necessity for a holistic approach to its management.


In conclusion, while the study by Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences did not discern a significant association between plant-based diets and NAFLD, it underscores the imperative for further research in this realm. Deeper insights into dietary patterns and their nuanced impact on NAFLD could potentially inform more efficacious preventive strategies. Given the burgeoning prevalence of NAFLD and its attendant health risks, sustained exploration of dietary interventions remains paramount.



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