Resistant starch slims fatty liver
Some foods contain a special form of starch that cannot be broken down by the human digestive system. This combination of carbohydrates influences the intestinal flora – and supports fat loss in the liver.
When it comes to fatty liver disease, many people automatically think of high levels of alcohol consumption. With the increasing prevalence of obesity in the population, malnutrition is now the most common cause of fatty degeneration of the organ. In medicine this is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL). Weight loss and exercise have so far been the most important measures to slim down the organ again.
Previous research has already shown that NAFL is linked to a disrupted gut microbiome. People with fatty liver disease in the early stages already have a changed intestinal bacterial profile.
Resistant starch: food for intestinal bacteria
Researchers led by Yueqiong Ni from the Sixth People’s Clinic in Shanghai have investigated which nutritional strategies best support the reduction of liver fat. The result: So-called resistant starch could play a key role. It cannot be broken down by the human digestive system but serves as “food” for certain intestinal bacteria.
Among other things, they convert this into a short-chain fatty acid butyric acid (butyrate), which counteracts inflammatory processes and supports the intestinal mucosa.
Ni’s team recruited 200 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and put the participants on a balanced diet for four months. Half of them also drank a portion of 20 grams of resistant corn starch mixed in 300 ml of water twice a day. The other half drank the appropriate amount of non-resistant corn starch in water.
Halved liver fat content
At the end of the study, the group that consumed resistant starch almost halved their liver fat percentage from 24.99 percent to 13.14 percent. In the control group, the liver fat percentage only fell from 23.51 percent to 21.44 percent.
In addition, the treatment with resistant starch increased weight loss: the participants in this group lost weight from an average of 83.52 kg to 78.05 kg, or around 5.4 kg. In the control group, the participants only lost around one kilogram – from an average of 84.24 kg to 83.29 kg. In addition, eating resistant starch improved the participants’ liver values such as ALT, AST and GGT, as well as their blood lipid levels.
The researchers do not attribute the different results to the greater weight loss, but rather to a change in the microbiome in the intestine.
Metabolic products from intestinal bacteria affect the liver
Analyses showed that, among other things, the proportion of the stool germ Bacteroides stercoris was reduced by the treatment with resistant starch – probably because other bacterial groups grew more strongly. The bacterium releases the fatty acid valine, which is flushed through the intestinal lining into the blood and then into the liver. According to cell experiments, it promotes the accumulation of fat.
The researchers tested their hypothesis by transferring stool samples from the participants to mice whose microbiome they had previously eradicated using antibiotics. Animals that received faecal germs from people who had consumed resistant starch lost weight and lost liver fat. This was not observed in their counterparts – they had been given prepared stool from participants who had consumed ordinary starch.
Potato salad for the liver?
The researchers therefore recommend the targeted consumption of resistant starch. This occurs within 12 to 24 hours in starchy foods that have been cooked and then cooled – for example pasta and potatoes and legumes. The converted starch remains even after reheating. Even slightly green bananas and whole grain products contain resistant starch.
“Our study provides evidence that resistant starch could be a novel, relatively simple and cost-effective treatment option for NAFL, write the researchers. Compared to reducing liver fat through weight loss and exercise programs, many sufferers find it easier to add resistant starch to a normal, balanced diet, Li says.
Fatty liver disease usually goes unnoticed for a long time
A fatty liver does not cause any symptoms for a long time. Only a feeling of pressure in the upper abdomen due to the enlargement can indicate this. It is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It becomes particularly problematic if the liver becomes inflamed at some point and liver cirrhosis develops. The risk of liver cancer is also increased with a fatty liver.
In the UAE
In the United Arab Emirates, where rich, flavourful cuisine is a cornerstone of culture, the issue of fatty livers has gained significant attention. The prevalence of fatty liver disease is a growing concern, often linked to dietary habits and lifestyle choices.
Interestingly, the UAE’s culinary heritage offers a potential solution.
While traditionally rich in starchy foods like rice and bread, these staples are now being revaluated for their potential benefits in managing fatty liver. Starchy foods, when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, can provide essential nutrients and fibre while helping control weight, a crucial factor in liver health.
This revaluation underscores the UAE’s commitment to improving public health through education and culinary innovation. It encourages a harmonious blend of tradition and science, fostering a culture where embracing local cuisine can promote healthier living. The UAE is at the forefront of demonstrating how even staple foods can play a pivotal role in addressing pressing health concerns.