June 19, 2011

YESTERDAY, I LINKED A DISCUSSION OF THE NEW EPIDEMIC OF NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE, and a lot of readers think that there’s a Gary Taubes point to be made.

Reader Scott Loftfield sends this link to the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet, and reader Jeffrey Bentley writes:

I read on Instapundit the finding about high incident rate of NASH in the US.

I was diagnosed with NASH in 1999 or so when my liver started failing.

They spent two years running just about any test or imaging scan they could think of, as my liver slowly developed fibrosis. I was one of those people that were told I’d need a liver transplant in 5-10 years. To buy myself some time my gastroenterologists recommended losing weight, but doing it healthily by going to a nutritionist to develop a custom diet. Many typical weight-loss diets put stress on the liver, so doing a “low impact” weight reduction diet was critical for me.

The nutritionist I went to was a semi-retired surgeon, fatigued from years of transplant surgery, that decided to start a clinic devoted to preventing disease.

She basically saved my life.

In doing her intake on me as a patient, she looked over the pile of data, quizzed me on the effects certain foods have on me, and realized that I may have difficulty processing fructose.

She put me on a diet restrictive of fructose. I had to give up the fruits and fruit juices that I loved, I had to give up food with high fructose corn syrup, and I had to give up table sugar, as that is processed by the body into fructose and glucose.

Within 6 months my liver enzymes were normal and within a year my ultrasounds showed a normal-sized liver. No more NASH.

I have pretty much stayed on this diet, lost 30 pounds on it, and have had no problems with my liver. I put a couple tablespoons of sugar in my coffee every morning, otherwise, I avoid it.

As to why fructose would have this effect, we have no idea. My liver was treating it as a harmful substance that needed to be eliminated, the process of which was taking a heavy toll on my liver, much as if I was drinking a lot of alcohol. There seems to be no readily identifiable reason why this was so, but when I backslid on my diet and started eating fructose again, I did start having lots of pain in my liver and developed jaundice. When I stopped eating fructose, the jaundice and pain went away.

This is just my personal experience, and may not be the same for the others afflicted with NASH. But it’s easily tested on an individual basis. Just watch what you eat, skipping sucrose and fructose in your meals, and see if it helps.

More here, and also here. Plus, more on a fructose connection. (Thanks to reader Laurie Weakley for the links). I have to say that the Taubes thesis is looking better in numerous ways.

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